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Beyond sunlight: Explorers census 17,650 ocean species between edge of darkness and black abyss
Date:11/22/2009

concern. 'Mine it, drill it, dispose into it, or fish it - what could possibly be impacted? And, if there is an impact, the abyss is vast and best yet, hidden from sight.'

"Census of Marine Life deep realm scientists see and are concerned."

Expensive, dangerous work

"The deep sea is the Earth's largest continuous ecosystem and largest habitat for life. It is also the least studied," says Dr. German.

Sampling at great depths depends on high tech instruments (such as remotely operated vehicles (ROVs), autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs), and submarines) or "traditional" equipment (trawls, cores, dredges) that need several kilometers of cable to reach the seabed. For example, 12 km (~7.5 miles) of cable was needed to trawl recently down to 4,800 meters (~ 3 miles) depth on the Porcupine Abyssal Plain in the Northeast Atlantic.

Earlier this year, CenSeam scientists aboard New Zealand-based Research Vessel Tangaroa underlined the grueling nature of the challenge of obtaining samples, maps and unprecedented underwater footage of the Graveyard and the Andes seamounts in the South Pacific.

The work was performed with a Deep-Towed Imaging System (DTIS), a technology developed and refined by growing experience over rugged, unfamiliar seamounts and ridges, yielding steadily better results.

Says Mireille Consalvey of the New Zealand National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, CenSeam project manager, "Every deployment is a trip into the unknown, with often seasick scientists struggling to work amid high winds and 10 meter swells."

"It can be a tough environment down there. I recall once the abject fear when our video imaging system snagged for 40 minutes on a rock face -- the slow, scary process of recovering it, and the shared worry that our valued recording equipment would arrive at the surface battered and bent. Thankfully, the recorder survived the ordeal better than many of us
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Contact: Terry Collins
terrycollins@rogers.com
416-538-8712
Census of Marine Life
Source:Eurekalert  

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