“There is no substitute for being down in the environment, for being able to react to the environment in real time. These are things only humans can do. Robots cannot see all that is going on around the vehicle. I hope we never see the day that we replace, rather than supplement, manned submersibles.”
- Michael Bruno, Vice Chancellor for Research, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa.
The Hawai‘i Undersea Research Laboratory
The Hawai‘i Undersea Research Laboratory (HURL) specializes in providing scientists with the tools and expertise they need to investigate the undersea environment, including submersibles, remotely operated vehicles, and other leading edge technologies.
This Center, within the School of Ocean and Earth Sciences and Technology at the University of Hawai‘i, was funded through a cooperative agreement from NOAA that began in 1980 as part of NOAA’s Office of Ocean Exploration and Research.
Keeping people in the exploration space
HURL has two of the last in-use manned submersibles in the world. While the world is moving towards remotely operated vehicles, there is tremendous value in keeping a human presence in the exploration space. Unfortunately funding for HURL is running out.
Humans can sense the small changes, get a “feel” for the environment, and maneuver in ways that remote vehicles can’t do as well. Because of our unique position in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, these subs are a uniquely valuable assets to UH and to our research ventures in the marine environment. It would be a shame to lose something that makes us so unique and something that we are uniquely positioned to utilize to its fullest capacity.
“A lab like HURL is always innovative, in equipment and in bringing research to the public. The great thing about a university is you get students, faculty, and industry coming together to advance our understanding and progress, and HURL is a great example of what that can look like for the marine environment.”
-Terry Kerby, Director of Facilities and Submersible Operations.
The HURL team delves into a wide range of collaborative research projects. Traditional projects include exploring the deepwater marine processes, ecosystems, fisheries, and other resources of the islands, seamounts, and atolls in the Pacific Ocean and the human-induced impacts on them.
New areas of research include environmental impact measurements associated with innovative ocean energy technologies, particularly ocean thermal energy conversion, cold water cooling, and undersea energy transmission between the islands originating from renewable sources such as wind farms.
Positioned for Action
The HURL operations center is located on the Makai Research Pier at Makapu‘u Point on the east coast of the island of O‘ahu. A submersible hangar is located on the pier, which also houses the operations office, diving locker, and machine and electronic shops. Ship operations are managed by the UH Marine Center at Snug Harbor (Pier 45) on Sand Island Access Road in Honolulu. The ROV facility also operates at this location. The HURL administrative and science offices, data processing center, and labs are located at the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa in Honolulu.
HURL ship-based facilities support marine research projects that require data acquisition at depths greater than standard SCUBA limits. The major HURL assets consist of the R/V Ka‘imikai-o-Kanaloa (KoK) with a hybrid SeaBeam 3012 full ocean depth multibeam system; the submersibles Pisces IV and Pisces V, an ROV, and the HURL Data Center.