Scientists broke the news in the style of French existentialist Albert Camus: "We lost Nereus today," Ken Kostel wrote of the deep-ocean robot, which imploded six miles beneath the surface of the Pacific last weekend.
Kostel is a writer at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Nereus was one of the institution's prized robots. It died while on a mission in the Kermadec Trench, one of the world's deepest undersea grooves, just 10 days away from completing a 40-day expedition.
Nereus was about to complete the deepest dive of its mission when its video feed "abruptly went dark." This had happened before, and scientists weren't concerned. Nereus could still reach the surface with its lines of communication down; it would just take longer than usual. But Nereus didn't surface in one piece. Fragments appeared as white dots in the water. "By then we knew," Kostel said. "Nereus was gone."
His tribute is, simply put, heartbreaking. Technological loss often is. A stolen laptop begins as a pit in one's stomach. An iPhone left in the backseat of a taxi is a rush of panic. Devices can be replaced, but not always without anguish. Losing a machine means forgetting a part of ourselves. And Nereus was a big one.