Oceanography

A deep-sea batfish
A deep-sea batfish

New species discovered off Western Australia

While on a mission to map the volcanic geography of Cocos (Keeling) Islands Marine Park off Western Australia, researchers aboard the vessel Investigator also surveyed the deep-sea life in the Indian Ocean Territories.

In doing so, they came face-to-face with many fascinating, and some previously unknown, species.

Besides filming videos of the vast marine life amidst the summits of seamounts, the team also collected specimens from depths as deep as five kilometres below the surface.

We have discovered an amazing number of potentially new species living in this remote marine park

Dr Tim O’Hara, Chief Scientist of the expedition and Senior Curator, Marine Inveterbrates at Museums Victoria Research Institute

During the expedition, the researchers had been sharing their discoveries with more than 850 school students and community members in Australia through real-time livestreaming.

The expedition was a collaboration between Museums Victoria Research Institute and CSIRO, in partnership with Bush Blitz, Parks Australia, Australian Museum Research Institute and the Western Australian Museum.

A gummy squirrel (Psychropotes longicauda) - one of the new species discovered
A gummy squirrel (Psychropotes longicauda) - one of the new species discovered

More than 35 new deep-sea species discovered

More than 35 potentially new deep-sea species have been discovered at the Clarion-Clipperton Zone (CCZ) in the central Pacific. 

Ranging from starfish and segmented worms to sea cucumbers and various types of coral, these specimens were collected using a remotely operated vehicle.

In total, 55 benthic specimens were collected from seamounts and abyssal plains. Of these, 39 were found to be potentially new to science, with nine that were referable to known species. 

The dive was piloted by Victor Vescovo, undersea explorer and founder of the ocean research company Caladan Oceanic, with Dr. Dawn Wright as mission sonar specialist.
The dive was piloted by Victor Vescovo, undersea explorer and founder of the ocean research company Caladan Oceanic, with Dr. Dawn Wright as mission sonar specialist.

Expedition Reaches the Deepest Point on Earth, Challenger Deep

The dive was piloted by Victor Vescovo, undersea explorer and founder of the ocean research company Caladan Oceanic, with Dr. Dawn Wright (Chief Scientist at Esri) as mission sonar specialist. The expedition was again led and coordinated by expedition leader Rob McCallum, founder of EYOS Expeditions.

Wright supported the dive with her expertise in marine geology and the company's geospatial technology and became one of the few individuals – and the first Black person – to visit Challenger Deep.

Explorer Victor Vescovo (left), Founder of Caladan Oceanic, along with Dr Osvaldo Ulloa, Director of the Instituto Milenio de Oceanografia (IMO), have completed the first-ever crewed dive to the deepest point of the Atacama Trench
Explorer Victor Vescovo (left), Founder of Caladan Oceanic, along with Dr Osvaldo Ulloa, Director of the Instituto Milenio de Oceanografia (IMO), have completed the first-ever crewed dive to the deepest point of the Atacama Trench

First-ever crewed dive into Atacama Trench

On 21 January 2022, two men dived the first-ever crewed dive to the deepest point of the Atacama Trench, the deepest trench in the southeastern Pacific.

This feat saw explorer Victor Vescovo, Founder of Caladan Oceanic, and Osvaldo Ulloa from Instituto Milenio de Oceanografia (IMO) descending to 8,069m below sea level, in the submersible Limiting Factor. This dive was the first in the Chilean leg of the Ring of Fire Pt 2 (2022) expedition.

Striking Hydrothermal vents, chimneys, and mirror pools, with large population of tubeworms in the JaichaMaa' ja' ag vent field.
Striking Hydrothermal vents, chimneys, and mirror pools, with large population of tubeworms in the JaichaMaa' ja' ag vent field.

Hydrothermal vents and possible new species discovered in Gulf of California

The hydrothermal vents are located in the Pescadero basin and are unique both in their chemistry and appearance to other known hydrothermal vents, as they are the only ones currently observed to emit clear fluids as opposed to dark, smokey fluids associated with iconic “black smoker” vents.

Indigenous names

The largest of the new vent mounds, named Maija awi, sits midway between the JaichaMaa ‘ja’ag vent field, discovered by the same team during Schmidt Ocean Institute’s 2018 R/V Falkor expedition, and the Auka vent field, discovered during an expedition by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) in 2015.

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The black lava sand is one of the characteristics of Bali. It makes the colour of these nudibranchs stand out too.

Why are the Balinese waters so rich?

It all starts east of the Philippines where the constant blowing of the tradewinds and the ocean currents forces huge masses of water up against the Philippines, where it is trapped and forced southwards. 

Most of this current is directed by ocean bottom morphology to flow into the Sulawesi basin and down between Borneo and Sulawesi—the fat red arrow on the figure above. The only thing sitting in this giant current’s way is the lesser Sunda Islands, predominantly Bali, Lombok, Sumbawa, Flores and Timor—with Bali sitting right in the ideal position to benefit from this flow.

The newly discovered seamount rises to just 40 metres (131ft) below the surface
The newly discovered seamount rises to just 40 metres (131ft) below the surface

Seamount found in the Red Sea

Yemeni fishermen evidently knew the mount existed – Echo found a dhow anchored on its summit as she carried out her survey of the area.

But existing charts of the area suggested the sea was 385 metres (1,263ft) deep – but over an eight-hour period, Echo collected reams of information with her sounders to prove otherwise.

After processing all that information, 24 hours later the powerful computers aboard the ship produced the stunning 3D imagery which revealed the true extent of the mount.

The Venus flytrap sea anemone (Actinoscyphia aurelia) is a large sea anemone that superficially resembles a Venus flytrap. It closes its tentacles to capture prey or to protect itself. It is a deep ocean species.
The Venus flytrap sea anemone (Actinoscyphia aurelia) is a large sea anemone that superficially resembles a Venus flytrap. It closes its tentacles to capture prey or to protect itself. It is a deep ocean species.

Ancient Deep-Sea Coral Reefs Serve as Underwater ‘Islands’ in the Gulf Stream

“We discovered that a number of animals thought to be rare are common around the corals, documented many animals outside of their previously known ranges, and discovered species new to science,” NOAA zoologist Martha Nizinski said.

Chimney-like structures spew hot fluids of up to 300 degrees Celsius that contain large amounts of methane and hydrogen sulfide.
Chimney-like structures spew hot fluids of up to 300 degrees Celsius that contain large amounts of methane and hydrogen sulfide.

New deep-sea hot springs discovered in the Atlantic

The discovery of the new deep-sea vent is remarkable because the area in which it was found has been intensively studied during previous research cruises. The vent with chimneys as high as one meter and fluids with temperatures up to 300 degrees Celsius was found at one thousand metres depth in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

Geradia (gold) coral. Some deep-sea coral are now believed to have lifespans in excess of 4,000 years.
Geradia (gold) coral. Some deep-sea coral are now believed to have lifespans in excess of 4,000 years.

Deep-sea coral found to be over 4000 years old

A black deepsea coral found about 400 meters from Oahu and the Big Island in Hawaii is more than 4,000 years old — making it the oldest marine organism ever found, according to researchers from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Stanford University and the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Using a manned deep-sea research submersible samples were collected at the Makapuu and Lanikai deep-sea coral beds off the coast of Oahu, Keahole Point deep-sea coral bed off the coast of the Big Island and Cross Seamount about 100 miles south of Oahu.