I've put images and descriptions of some unusual life-forms on these pages. But I'm a software engineer for god's sake, not a biologist! So don't write in telling me I don't know what the hell I'm talking about, okay? Real scientists occasionally correct my more blatant errors. In particular, many thanks to George Matsumoto for aiding in species identification!
On December 13, 1996, ROV Tiburon made an engineering test dive to a depth of 1443 meters in Monterey Canyon, her deepest dive to date. Although the dive occurred on Friday the 13th, and the mother ship Western Flyer carried a crew of 13 that day, the dive was extremely successful (but I can tell you that we did not dawdle at 1313 meters depth!)
Below is our last view of Tiburon as she descended into the abyss. This image was captured by an underwater camera mounted on the hull of the Western Flyer. The bright spots on the "southwest" side of the vehicle are powerful floodlights; the deep Ocean is a world of perpetual midnight. The faint line near the top center of the image is part of the 4000 meter umbilical cable linking Tiburon to the Western Flyer.
During our one-hour descent, we encountered a ctenophore, commonly known as a "comb jelly", at a depth of about 1100 meters. Most comb jellies are clear; this animal was a striking violet color. This is actually a newly-discovered species (Lampoctena sanguineventer), and is currently being studied by MBARI biologists.
The specimen is several centimeters in length. The bright lines on the animal are rows of iridescent cilia, tiny hairs that move like oars to propel the critter through the water.
"Down, down, down - would the long fall never come to an end?" - Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
After about an hour of slowly sinking through the "Deep Blue", our sonar altimeter display finally showed us that we were approaching the Canyon floor. Two hundred meters, one hundred meters, ten meters altitude - still the video showed only a field of midnight blue filled with tiny flurries of "marine snow". Suddenly at an altitude of 3 meters, the sea floor appeared on the video monitor - it felt as if we were landing on the Moon! Tiburon touched down gently on the bottom at a depth of 1440 meters.
At that depth, there is, of course, no sunlight. But Tiburon's floodlights lit up the area nicely. The bottom was littered with pink starfish, green tube-worms, and translucent blue things with many legs.
The long, snake-like fish is commonly called a "Rat Tail". This animal is even more cute and cuddly than its name implies!
As we prowled along the bottom, we encountered a small octopus, several centimeters across.
This dive is a first step toward our ultimate depth goal of 4000 meters (over two miles deep). Watch this page for further developments!
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