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How do you explore the deep sea?

How do scientists research and explore underwater? Studying the deep ocean is not as simple as studying environments on land. Researchers first of all have to deal with surviving below the surface, using a combination of dive teams, manned submersibles, as well as a range of deep sampling tools and robotic vehicles.

As researchers explore deeper, they have to contend with increasing pressure and decreasing light. At the deepest point on the planet, Challenger Deep, the pressure is an incredible 15,000 pounds per square inch: the same as an elephant standing on your big toe. Darkness is also a feature of the deep. Below 600 feet, very little light filters through from the surface and below about 3,000 feet, there is no sunlight at all.

In this 360VR story, students will learn more about the science and technology needed to explore the deep ocean, joining the Nekton Mission team as they research the waters off Bermuda with submersibles, deep dive teams and a host of scientific equipment.

This Expedition delivered the XL Catlin Deep Ocean Survey. To find out more visit the Nekton website.

We start off our expedition, investigating the shallow coral reef off Bermuda. At depths of 60-90 feet, the shallow reef is relatively easy to research, requiring standard scuba equipment. The focus of this part of the science was to look at the impact of invasive lionfish on the coral reef environment. Lionfish come from the Indo-Pacific region, but have now ‘invaded’ other reef habitats, where they have no natural predators. Their feeding habits are having a negative impact on local species.

For a better understanding of the submarine environment, scientists need to study a range of physical and chemical factors, including light, pH (level of acidity), oxygen, salinity and temperature. The team deploy a piece of equipment called BEAMS (Benthic Ecosystem Acidification Monitoring System). You can learn more about this from the video made by the science team.

The deep dive team had a depth limit of 300 feet. To explore the ocean below this, the team used manned submersibles. These Triton 1000/2 submersibles are rated down to 1,000 feet, and some submersibles can travel to full ocean depth at 36,070 feet. With their clear pressure hulls, these submersibles give scientists unparalleled views of the subsea world.

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