It's often said that we know more about the surface of the Moon than the bottom of the ocean, but the trusty submarine robot Global Explorer is trying its best to change that.
This remotely operated vehicle (ROV) is currently livestreaming its adventures at the US-Mid-Atlantic margin, about 80 miles off the coast of Chesapeake Bay, where the North American continental shelf scarps into the deep waters of the Atlantic Ocean. As of Tuesday, the live-feed is chronicling the vibrant deep sea life sustained by methane seeps at depths beyond 1,000 meters (3,280 feet) below the surface. Watch the robot's POV right this second, above.
Global Explorer is remotely controlled by a team aboard the research vessel Hugh R. Sharp, as part of the Interagency Mission for Methane Research at Seafloor Seeps (IMMeRSS), which kicked off on May 3 and runs to May 11. The expedition is led by the US Geological Survey, and includes scientists from the British Geological Survey, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the US Department of Energy.
The goal of the ocean outing is to explore and sample the unique habitats around seafloor seeps, where rich hydrocarbons like methane and hydrogen sulfide permeate in brine pools. The majority of the seeps Global Explorer is checking out up close have been discovered within the past five years, and support thriving ecosystems inhabited by unique chemosynthetic life-forms that break down hydrocarbons, rather than sunlight, to power themselves.
The robot "is like Ms. Frizzle's Magic School Bus, transporting scientists on adventures to remote—and yet real—locations populated by strange and wonderful life forms," wrote ROV superintendent Joe Caba in a 2016 post on NOAA.gov.
Indeed, in its Tuesday morning dispatches, the robot has uncovered all sorts of environments worthy of visitation by Ms. Frizzle's class, including this dramatic skeleton, picked clean by bottom-feeders, which appears to belong to an enormous whale. RIP.
The ROV also hung around for a while watching these crabs chow down on a dead fish. If there's ever been an embodiment of "nom nom nom," it is that crab.
Occasionally the sub reaches out with its robotic arm to scoop up a sample for closer viewing.
In fact, pretty much every time I've checked in to see what the ROV is up to, there's something weird going on. That's in character for the deep sea, of course, and it's why these livestreams from the depths are worth tuning into.
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