During the Census-affiliated ANDEEP III expedition, from January to April 2005, a crew of 56 scientists from 10 countries took samples by towing two kinds of net over the ocean floor and by stamping out small cores 50 centimeters deep.
In some cases it took up to three hours for sampling equipment to reach the seabed, 4,500 meters below the ocean surface. (Half of the Earth is under more than 3,000 meters of water. The seas' deepest trenches drop to 12,000 meters.)
While results from these samples are still being examined, they have spawned some early, intriguing results. For example, the cores contained many small sea creatures; other sampling techniques turned up relatively large specimens, including sea cucumbers up to 20 centimeters long.
In addition to collecting a large number of unfamiliar specimens, Census scientists use DNA extractions to discern previously unknown differences between species and insights into the history of Southern Ocean fauna.
The scientists found on the ocean floor miniscule meiofauna, single-celled creatures less than half a millimeter long, the most successful and numerous animal in the southern sea. They form the base of the food web.
As well, the team uncovered a sponge with a calcium-based skeleton, a finding that amazed scientists given the depth (about 4,500 meters) at which it was found.
Research in the Southern Ocean is the most expensive in the world. The recent ANDEEP III expedition by icebreaker cost one Euro per second.
The Antarctic Census will also harmonize with efforts by BirdLife International to track and understand the migration of albatross, 19 of 21 species of which are threatened and the other two near-threatened.