Wednesday, 27 February 2013

18 - The final word from team biology

Sampling west shrimp gully at Beebe Vent Field
The Isis  ROV has captured the last glance of the seabed on our final dive at the Beebe Vent Field and we’ve collected our last batch of samples from the distant reaches of the deep ocean, where sunlight is a stranger and pressure exerts a tight grip. The cold, black waters revealed on the ascent unveil nothing of the marvels of life we leave behind and whose secrets we are endeavouring to unlock.

A final glimpse of the deepest vents
During the last few weeks we’ve collected hundreds of hours of video footage and thousands of stills of the creatures inhabiting the Von Damm and Beebe vent fields, and of the halo of life surrounding these island-like oases. We’ve catalogued, processed and photographed a diverse array of animal life, including abundant blind vent shrimp and elusive echindoderms, elongate tubeworms and squat lobsters, fragile sponges and corals, and exquisite anemones. One of our objectives has been to elucidate the biodiversity at the deepest vents and our final species list is still in preparation as we collate the data we’ve accumulated and begin to analyse what we’ve found. At the time of writing we don’t know if we’ve discovered any new species…but as you read this we’ll be working hard to find out!

Jon Copley using skype to show his SOES1006 class
our discoveries from the deep
The biologists have got a tremendous amount of new information and samples from this expedition and we’ll be kept very busy for the foreseeable future. I hope none of us will ever forget the wonders we’ve had the privilege to see and experience, captured by the cameras on Isis  and viewed through the eyes of awed human beings.

Jon Copley has been an inspirational principal scientist; in addition to leading on science he has made several daily Skype calls to schools across the UK and even taught his first year marine ecology practicals via Skype from the ship.

Paul Tyler
It has been a pleasure to sail with such a great team of scientists, technicians, officers and crew. And finally we raise a glass to Professor Paul Tyler, without whom none of this would be possible. His vision and commitment to deep sea biological exploration has shaped UK marine science. This is Paul’s last voyage and many of us have sailed with him on his 60+ expeditions – cheers Paul, here’s to a long and happy (semi) retirement.

By Verity Nye, Rachel Mills and Team Biology

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