Site: P.P. Shirshov Institute of Oceanology
Academy of Sciences of Russia
23 Krasikowa St., Moscow 117218
Telephone: 095-124-5996
Fax: 095-124-5987

Date Visited: May 20, 1993

Report Author: D. Walsh



C. Brancart
B. Mooney
D. Walsh


L. Savostin; Director
V. Demchenko; Vice Director
Dr. Vyacheslav S. Yastrebov

President, Near-Bottom Research Institute Head, Department of Underwater Vehicles (former Director of P.P. ShirshovInstitute)

Dr. Lev L. Utiakov

Laboratory Chief, Long-Term Bottom Stations, Sensors, and Electronics [Vice Director for Technology as of 12/93]

Dr. A.N. Paramonov; Underwater Robotics and Instrumentation Development Dr. Alexander B. Kostin; Principal Scientist, Deep Tow Systems, Side-Scan Sonars, Signal Processing, and Transducer Developments
Yuri S. Russak; Principal Scientist, Signal Processing, Side-Scan Sonars, and Transducer Developments
Dr. Alexandre B. Zaretsky; Senior Research Scientist, Design of AUV Systems and Control Program Software Development
Dr. Lev Merklin; Senior Scientist, Geophysics Signal Processing, High Resolution Array Design, and Signal Processing
Dr. Alexandr A. Gorlov; Principal Scientist, Deep Submersibles Engineering, Pisces Pilot (mtg. coordinator)


After an initial briefing period in the auditorium, the team spent about four hours at the institute. Most of the time was used to visit various offices and laboratories to view, demonstrate, and discuss equipment.

This site visit was very well organized. Upon arrival the team was taken to a conference room where each staff member to be visited gave a briefing on his research work and recent developments. This took less than an hour and was very useful in giving an overview of activities related to team member's interests.

There were four briefers whose laboratories or bureaus the team did not visit this morning:

With respect to the general state of the P.P. Shirshov Institute of Oceanology, please see the preceding report, which describes the team's first visit there on May 17, 1993. At the time the team was briefed by the director, however, he was unable to join us for this site visit. As with most of the site visits, there was far more information available than there was time to evaluate it in any detail. This was especially true at Shirshov, where there was a genuine eagerness to tell the team about projects, hardware developments, and ideas for new research directions.


This section is organized in the order of the offices and laboratories visited.

Department of Underwater Vehicles and the Near-Bottom Research Institute

Academician Yastrebov met the team in his office to provide a more detailed briefing on his work. He mentioned that he had been at the Shirshov for twenty-five years, but in the past two years the institute had received no new funding. So the institute is working on accumulated hydroacoustics data instead of making additional oceanographic voyages at sea.

With a private company, the Near-Bottom Research Institute is developing "intelligent robots," that is, autonomous underwater vehicles. The applications of these submersibles will be for biological monitoring and measurements of the general oceanographic environment.

An important first step is programming the vehicle. One approach is to provide the AUV's onboard memory with "genetic information" about the general/generic nature of the mission. As with other AUVs, the specific mission information will also be programmed. In this way, a sort of pseudo-artificial intelligence is provided to the submersible. Also the actual "experience" of the vehicle will be collected from each mission and programmed back into it to increase its "learning curve" and collective intelligence.

The institute's scientists and engineers are presently doing laboratory modeling and simulation to test these ideas. The team was taken to the laboratory and shown several test runs on a computer screen. They have developed nine training programs of varying complexity. The simulated AUV is fitted with forward-looking and vertical sonars for terrain/obstacle avoidance and maintaining the programmed altitude above the seafloor. In practice they will be able to maintain navigation accuracy to within 7 m at the seafloor.

The team was also shown two geological sampling devices that had been constructed for use onboard the Mir (6,000 m) manned submersibles. These hydraulically operated units are a rock coring device and a rock breaker. The coring device has successfully drilled 25 cm cores in basalt from a Mir operating near the Azores.

Mr. Yastrebov also mentioned a 6,000 m towed sled developed by Shirshov that carries side scan sonar as well as TV and a still camera. He indicated that the team would see more details on this system during visits to the other laboratories and offices.

Sonar Information Processing

In addition to the data processing of signals, Mr. Yuri Russak's group is involved with development of the transducer elements for the side scan sonar and the imaging systems for the 6,000 m towed fish (with a 10,000 m umbilical).

The onboard low light level, black and white TV camera has a threshold of 0.005 lux using a supervidicon tube. With the lighting available on the fish, the maximum visible range is about 20 m. The institute does not have color TV since the line loss (over 10 km umbilical length) would be too great.

The photography is done with a two-camera, color stereo, 35 mm system. The film magazines hold 3,000 exposures/frames. A strobe flash provides lighting for the cameras.

This fish was used to investigate the wreckage of the Mike class submarine Komsomolets, which is lying on its side in 1,400 m of water. A photograph of the fish is enclosed with this report (see Figure Shirshov.1).

Sensors and Devices for Long-Term Bottom Stations

Dr. Lev Utykov showed a variety of electronic devices developed and made by his group. Of particular interest is a family of electronic chips that can be used at ambient pressure to great depths. These chips have also been successfully tested by boiling in oil and freezing with liquid nitrogen. He believes that ambient-pressure electronics (either exposed to direct depth pressure or in pressure-compensated containers) will be the way to put much greater computer capacity into vehicles with minimal weight penalties.

Another equipment development that Dr. Utykov's group has worked on is a hydroacoustic transponder/beacon system for attaching to divers and marine mammals. In both cases it could send physiological and location data back to the control facility. It could also be used to warn a diver about unsafe conditions (exceeding dive time at depth, onset of nitrogen narcosis, etc.). Presumably a marine mammal that has had conditioning training could be controlled via long distance acoustic transmissions.

Figure Shirshov.1. Photograph of Fish

Geophysical Towed Arrays

Mr. Lev Merklin discussed his development of lower-cost, smaller geophysical seismic systems. Since the existing 3-D systems are large and expensive, his goal is to achieve similar results with much less complexity. He hopes to develop a 5 km long towed array using sensors that are only 20 to 25 mm in diameter. A microjet transmitter would transmit a broad-band, complex signal. However, cable self-noise is a problem when the operator uses a very thin cable with built-in multichannel hydrophones.


Since the WTEC team's visit to the institute was really a series of visits to several offices and laboratories, this summary is a synthesis of these activities. There was no single summary meeting before the team left.

The entire institute suffers from a greatly reduced level of investment from the government agencies that had been the principal source of support. This is forcing the various components of Shirshov to review what they know how to do, what they can make, and what can be sold outside Russia. In addition, a vigorous effort to seek cooperative research programs with foreign scientific agencies and institutions is evident. Since the P.P. Shirshov Institute of Oceanology is well known and respected throughout the world, this path of cooperative arrangements may be the most promising direction in the near term.

The team saw quite a few innovative technology developments during this brief visit. With a proper marketing approach, there could be success along this path. The director of the institute seems to be aware of these opportunities and plans to develop an organized catalog of their capabilities to be used as a marketing tool. Hopefully, professionals selected from the institute will be able to attend some of the major ocean trade shows in the world to make the larger community aware of what is available from this source.

Unfortunately, economic conditions in Russia may get worse faster than such organizations are able to develop means of self support. Considerable institutional downsizing will be an almost certainty. Hopefully this can be done without significant loss of the intellectual and physical assets that have made this a major oceanographic institution in the world.


Rock Coring Device That Can be Mounted on Submersibles.


Underwater Hydraulic Breaking Device That Can be Mounted on Submersibles. Brochure.

6,000 m depth towed sled for ocean floor. Photograph.

Published: June 1994; WTEC Hyper-Librarian