Underwater Photography - MIT Science Reporter TV

MIT campus, Cambridge MA; Atlantic Ocean: Caryn Peak, Romanche Trench, Puerto Rico Trench
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Alex Johnson, Harold E. Edgerton, John B. Hersey, John T. Fitch, Russell Morash, Stuart A. Nelson Jr.
Harold Edgerton is interviewed for the “MIT Science Reporter” television series by reporter John T. Fitch ’52, with whom he chats about the technology and scientific applications of underwater photography. Edgerton explains the mechanics of hand-held cameras and deep-sea camera instruments on display at the MIT Pool. He offers a running commentary on footage of original underwater photography fieldwork at several sites such as the THRESHER submarine wreck (lost in April 1962), and deep-sea explorations in the Romanche Trench and Puerto Rico Trench, conducted with research teams from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. Edgerton also demonstrates his sonar ‘pinger,’ designed to track the towed underwater camera between the seabed and surface ship, by tracking a swimmer across the MIT pool. The television series was produced by MIT and WGBH-TV Boston for National Education Television. Produced and directed by Russell Morash; recorded by WGBH-TV Boston, Lowell Institute Cooperative Broadcasting Council. This episode (1964 #35) was filmed April 24, 1964 and first aired during the week of May 31, 1964.

Tagged: Atlantic, Atlantic Ocean, camera, Caryn Peak, Cousteau, deep-sea, exploration, flash, ocean, oceanography, pinger, Puerto Rico Trench, Romanche Trench, Science Reporter, sonar, submarine, underwater photography, WGBH-TV, WHOI, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute

00:00:01 Introductory information: film title, synopsis, date, run time.
00:00:08 Film begins.
00:00:19 First images: MIT Alumni Pool, underwater camera and lights equipment dangling under water. Man jumps in and swims to camera [Stuart A. Nelson, Jr.?] and starts taking pictures. Voice-over by TV reporter John T. Fitch '52 introduces the subject: underwater photography.
00:00:49 [Titles] NET presents / Science Reporter / Underwater Photography / reporter John Fitch M.I.T.
00:01:11 Fitch introduces himself.
00:01:23 Harold Edgerton is shown by the edge of the swimming pool holding underwater camera lighting equipment. He is introduced as Professor of Electrical Measurements in the Department of Electrical Engineering and as the inventor of modern high-speed photography.
00:01:35 Fitch gives a general background to Edgerton’s work.
00:01:52 Edgerton, by the edge of the swimming pool, holds underwater camera lighting equipment.
00:02:00 Fitch presents the program topic: discussing equipment that Edgerton uses in deep-sea research.
00:02:09 Edgerton hands equipment to the swimmer in pool. Fitch approaches and asks question about camera he’s holding: how does water stay out of it?
00:02:24 Edgerton explains that his hand-held camera [NIKONOS type] is ordinary except that --
00:02:28 [Close-up of camera] “-- its case is water-proof. It was developed in France by Capt. Jacques-Yves Cousteau; it’s now made in Japan.” Edgerton removes lens to show protective O-rings. He explains knobs to control focus and aperture.
00:03:05 Edgerton and Fitch look at the camera equipment.
00:03:08 [Close-up of camera] Edgerton shows how to replace lens on camera.
00:03:15 Edgerton explains to Fitch how to open camera and get access to 35mm film inside, and how to trigger camera.
00:03:27 [Close-up of camera] Edgerton shows trigger to take picture. [pan backwards] and shows underwater flash lamp attachment.
00:03:47 Edgerton explains to Fitch the importance of color film use; he explains that one challenge is that color is absorbed in water within a distance of 10 feet, beyond which the color red is “killed,” leaving images only green and blue and “very unsatisfactory.” He shows Fitch the flash lamp (50 watt/seconds) mounted on a frame attached to the camera base; a lamp directed close to the subject provides color. Edgerton then shows Fitch a 200 watt/sec. lamp unit that would be operated by a second diver holding the unit of to the side.
00:04:40 [Close-up] Edgerton explains how a photo-electric tube is triggered by the flash of a primary flash attached to the camera, which allows the operator to get a synchronized light flash without the need to run wires between two divers. Fitch does a test to show how lights from camera-mounted flash and the hand-held flash go off simultaneously. As many secondary lights can be used as desired. Camera lamp has been tested for 300 ft., within scuba-diver range. The deepest ocean is about 7 miles deep, so a depth of 300 ft is just scratching below the surface. Edgerton expands on issues that accompany camera work at greater depths.
00:05:43 [Focus on Edgerton] Edgerton explains: problems are exactly the same in shallow and deep water: you need a case to keep out salt water; need a window, need electrical connections to operate lamp; camera also needs protection from great pressures. Pressure in deepest part of the ocean reaches 1,700 lb per square inch (more than 8 tons per square inch).
00:06:14 Fitch asks about cables to send signals between deep-water cameras and surface ship.
00:06:20 Edgerton explains: most equipment has batteries and automatic gear so it does not require any electrical connections to the surface.
00:06:46 Fitch invites Edgerton to show some additional equipment. A deep-sea camera (300 lbs) is pulled out of the pool. Heavy steel cables are used to pull up the entire frame.
00:07:15 Two men use block and tackle to pull camera gear out of pool. Edgerton points out specific features: two cameras at one end, water-tight plugs that carry electric power from battery in strobe, and wire carrying synchronizer connection to operate shutter. When the shutter operates, it closes the circuit that flashes the strobe. Two cameras allow stereo pictures.
00:08:15 [Close-up of back of camera] Hardened steel is about 1 inch thick. Edgerton points out the O-ring that seals against the steel. He points out the internal clock and the pressure gauge that are photographed on film to fix the exact instant and the exact depth at which the photo image was captured.
00:08:59 Fitch and Edgerton discuss details. Edgerton explains the placement of a card at the back of the camera; it is very important not to mix up different films, so the card will record location and project information: date, research vessel name, longitude, latitude, etc. The information becomes a permanent part of these pictures.
00:10:43 Close-up as Edgerton removes camera from cylinder case. A cylinder shape is used to withstand great pressures. The lens on front looks to bottom through a glass lens that is 1 inch thick. The corrective lens was developed by Prof. Robert E. Hopkins (University of Rochester) to avoid aberrations caused by looking through glass and water, to ensure that photographic images are as clear as possible. A standard reel of 35mm film is used. The back of the camera is open for ease of access.
00:11:26 Close-up as Edgerton replaces camera inside cylinder; Fitch comments about being impressed with the thickness of the steel casing. Edgerton warns, “Be careful: don’t bend that!”
00:11:42 Edgerton illustrates the effect of great pressure in the deep sea by displaying a cylinder camera case that didn’t survive the descent, and was crushed flat. The camera case failed at a depth of 4 miles.
00:12:12 Edgerton explains the other end of the camera equipment where the control mechanism is located: strobe light. He explains about the battery that can take 1,000 images (allowing spare capacity). He notes the efficiency of using the light only when you are illuminating the scene to take a picture.
00:12:53 Edgerton describes the automatic clock used to schedule a delay before the camera begins to take pictures, needed because of the time it takes to deploy the camera from the ship and have it reach sea bottom. He emphasizes the importance of testing equipment before deploying it in the field, in water.
00:13:32 Edgerton and Fitch introduce the next phase of film: showing examples of fieldwork.
00:13:54 Edgerton offers commentary while footage is shown of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute research vessel ATLANTIS II on a mission at sea; the pictures were taken by Samuel O. Raymond ’50 in Spring 1963 at the site of the THRESHER submarine disaster. Camera gear on deck is taken to the wreck site. There are two sets of camera gear available, so that one could be serviced while the other one was deployed on site. WHOI researcher Alex Johnson is visible.
00:14:27 Dr. John B. Hersey (WHOI scientist) appears at right, helping to maneuver deep-sea photographic equipment (nick-named “Big Jenny”) on deck. Edgerton explains that the equipment is rigged on the mount at a tilt so that the lights can be closer to the bottom when deployed; equipment is designed to work 30-40 feet from the sea bottom in order to cover more area. The ship was allowed to drift very slowly so that overlapping pictures could be taken, allowing for continuous coverage of everything on the bottom within a 20-foot wide strip.
00:15:17 The camera gear is shown on its way down; it took about a half-hour for the camera to reach bottom.
00:15:28 The winch operator watches a gauge that indicates the length of cable being let out.
00:15:33 A sonar instrument is deployed over the side of the ship, used for reading the sea bottom.
00:15:47 A map is shown indicating the trail pattern of where the cameras were towed across the THRESHER search site. Often, a towed camera might be located a mile away from the ship because of the current; it was a significant technical problem to determine exactly where the towed camera is.
00:16:03 Camera equipment is shown being retrieved from the sea, illustrating how difficult it can be to haul in the equipment, particularly in rough seas. “It gives the equipment good shock tests,” says Edgerton.
00:16:29 Edgerton notes that “quite a few of these cameras are lost at sea due to accidents that occur and breaking the cables, cameras get caught on something, or rigging… Practically every ocean of the world has one of these cameras at the bottom. I usually put my name and address on the ones I got out to sea with, and hope some day they will be found.”
00:17:02 A group of men crowd in around the continuous processing machine on board to see if cameras have taken pictures; Dr. Hersey stands at left.
00:17:22 Edgerton describes how hot water is poured on cold cameras when they first come up to warm them up, to prevent damaging moisture condensing in the interior.
00:17:31 Edgerton describes several photo still prints, and points out the data chamber on the left side of each print (that conveys information on location, time, depth, etc.) as described earlier. Some images reveal fragments of the THRESHER debris field.
00:17:50 Fitch and Edgerton at MIT Alumni Pool.
00:17:58 Edgerton explains how to position camera equipment in relation to bottom of the sea using a sonar device he designed ('pinger'). The camera is lowered on heavy cable until the camera is 20 ft from the sea bottom. The cable length is often considerably longer than the distance to the bottom because the camera drifts sideways due to currents and tides. “It is essential that we get a measurement from the camera to the bottom.” Edgerton explains details about the ‘pinger’ sonar instrument.
00:18:35 Edgerton points out the sonar transducer (pinger) mounted on the center of the camera instrument frame, and explains how the instrument works: It sends out pulses of sound that last about 1/5000 of a second, at one-second intervals, at a 12 kilocycle frequency so it sounds like little pings. As the camera approaches the bottom the sounds come from the transducer to the ship; at the same time the sound is reflected off the sea bottom and also returns to the ship. The time difference between two pings (direct ping and bottom-reflected ping) is recorded on board the ship by a sonar recorder, which indicates the distance between the camera and the sea floor.
00:19:28 Edgerton illustrates the pinger device with a large diagram. He then moves over with Fitch [at 00:20:12] to show a sonar recorder instrument that documents the sound on a tape. He demonstrates the sonar pinger in the swimming pool by putting a transmitter on the edge of the pool that emits a signal that will travel ca. 75 ft and return to the pool wall, and thus be recorded on the sonar recorder. Close-up of sonar graph [at 00:20:37]. Edgerton explains how to read the sonar graph.
00:21:04 Edgerton and Fitch monitor the sonar recorder as it records sound signals in the pool. A swimmer, Stuart A. Nelson, Jr. (the MIT sailing coach) jumps in and intentionally uses a splashy swim stroke to produce lots of bubbles; these appear on the sonar graph as signal disturbances.
00:21:29 Nelson jumps in the pool and swims slowly and noisily across.
00:21:41 Edgerton and Fitch monitor the sonar recorder as the swimmer (off camera) proceeds across the pool; Edgerton explains what the sonar recorder is documenting in real time.
00:21:50 Swimmer in pool.
00:22:06 Edgerton and Fitch stand by the sonar recorder as Edgerton explains how the tape is run more slowly when used with a deep-sea camera.
00:22:10 The swimmer reaches the end of the pool.
00:22:15 Edgerton and Fitch stand by the sonar recorder as Edgerton pulls out the record and points out the signals of the “noisy” swimmer moving across the pool.
00:22:29 [Close-up of sonar graph] Edgerton explains specific signals recorded. The slope of the signal line on the graph is proportional to the velocity at which the swimmer moved across the pool. Each individual stroke can be discerned.
00:22:43 Edgerton and Fitch discuss why the pinger is placed directly on camera being lowered to the sea bottom (rather than being kept on the ship and used to monitor the camera's depth). Edgerton explains that is how the process was done in earlier days when they only worked to depths of about 1,000 feet. Beyond that depth the signal becomes too weak to record because the camera is too small a target. Instead, the camera is made to be a source of the sound. Even so, the signal is very weak and would be lost on a normal oscilloscope because of various background sea noises. By using the sonar recorder tape you can “see” through the noise and pick out the faint dots belonging to the camera.
00:24:09 Scene: office room. Edgerton shows Fitch a series of black-and-white photographs of what has been documented by his camera at great depths.
00:24:19 Photographs of the Romanche Trench in the mid-Atlantic Ridge (WHOI project): mud and also small animals.
00:24:30 Photograph of rocks on sea bottom. Edgerton: “We go out to find what’s there.” He shows a sample of one of the rocks dredged from that site and comments, “That made a good Christmas present for my wife.”
00:24:58 Famous picture taken by David M. Owen (WHOI) with Dr. Ewing’s early cameras; it shows nodules at a great depth [likely Mediterranean Sea, 18,000 feet].
00:25:06 Picture of fish on the sea floor. Interesting image because the biologists on the trip had previously told Edgerton, “it’s no use taking pictures here: there are no fishes in this area.”
00:25:18 Picture of starfish on the sea bottom.
00:25:24 Picture of sea anemones on the sea bottom; currents are affecting the animals (limbs waving). The picture was taken by Richard A. Pratt (WHOI). Fitch: “It shows how valuable the pinger is in positioning yourself precisely so far off the bottom so that you can have a perfect picture like that.”
00:25:47 Edgerton and Fitch at a desk in an office: Edgerton describes the ability of sonar instruments to penetrate below the bottom sediments.
00:25:55 Edgerton shows a black-and-white photograph of an annotated sonar graph taken in Boston Harbor (7/14/1962) that shows the location of the two traffic tunnels (Sumner and Callahan) that go beneath the sea floor from Boston to the airport.
00:26:08 Edgerton and Fitch: sound penetrates through the mud itself. Edgerton tells him they call the machine the “mud penetrator.” Penetration depth can reach 50 feet below surface. He has hopes of going further. He is still learning a great deal about the technique.
00:26:37 Edgerton and Fitch: last picture to be shown.
00:26:42 B/w picture of a sonar graph labeled Caryn Peak, an underwater volcano located between the Atlantic coast and Bermuda. It was recorded by John B. Hersey in 1961 on board the WHOI research vessel CHAIN (expedition #19) using a very large sonar source called a ‘boomer,’ which creates a much lower and more powerful sound than a ‘pinger’ and penetrates deeper but with less resolution than a higher frequency sound. The sonar graph shows sediment layers that extend about a half-mile below the bottom surface.
00:27:26 Edgerton and Fitch: deep-sea sub-sediment [sub-bottom profiling] research is in a very active stage now: Edgerton states, “oceanographers around the world are trying to make louder noises and lower frequency noises and better recorders to get deeper and deeper into the earth.”
00:27:48 Edgerton points to a sonar ‘mosaic’ on the wall showing the profile of the Puerto Rican Trench [at the boundary between the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean], created out of a patchwork of sonar graphs, sent to Edgerton by John Hersey of WHOI. He points out sediment ponds at the bottom and the layering and sediments on the sides. The interview is concluded.
00:28:08 Fitch summarizes the program topic of program and signs off.
00:28:23 Film credits appear while swimmer swims in pool with underwater hand-held camera. [“Produced and directed by Russell Morash. Produced for National Educational Television. Recorded by WGBH-TV BOSTON, The Lowell Institute Cooperative Broadcasting Council…”]
00:29:25 Voice-over: “This is NET – National Educational Television.”
00:29:30 © MIT 2010 credits.

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