Robots of the Briny Deep

Unmanned and untethered submersibles are making it easier and cheaper to plan underwater pipelines -- and find the odd, long-lost U-boat

As a marine archaeologist based in Louisiana, Robert Church often studies grainy, black-and-white images of the ocean bottom for signs of a shipwreck or prehistoric site. Church does such survey work for oil and telecom companies that want to avoid obstacles when building underwater pipelines or laying cable. But one day earlier this summer, Church found himself staring at an image that seemed to highlight a large, cigar-shaped object. He telephoned his buddy Martin Morgan, a maritime World War II buff and said, "I think we found it."

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