Revealing bizarre deep-sea secrets

PANAMA CITY, Fla.--On Saturday, Aug. 7, Harbor Branch marine biologists and others will set out from Panama City, Fla. on an expedition called Operation Deep Scope to study the fantastic life forms of four alien landscapes in the deep reaches of the Gulf of Mexico. The team will be using the most advanced array of imaging tools ever deployed in the deep sea with the goal of revealing never before seen animals, behaviors, and phenomena.

The expedition is funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Office of Ocean Exploration, which was created to investigate the oceans for the purpose of discovery and the advancement of knowledge. NOAA is an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Deep Scope will take place aboard Harbor Branch's Seward Johnson II research vessel and the Johnson-Sea-Link I submersible, which is capable of diving to 3,000 feet. Besides Harbor Branch scientists, the expedition will include researchers from Duke University; the University of Queensland, Australia; the Whitney Lab of the University of Florida; the University of Ulm, Germany; and Physical Science, Inc., in Andover, Mass.

"This is the first time we've ever been able to assemble a team like this, with such a range of tools," says Dr. Edith Widder, expedition co-leader and head of Harbor Branch's Biophotonics Center, "Some of these areas have never been explored before and for many of the scientists, this expedition is a dream come true."

The explorations will begin at Desoto Canyon where the team will study unexplored deepwater pinnacles about 120 miles south of Pensacola that support a diverse range of animals. Next they will visit a spectacular deepwater coral reef at a site known as Viosca Knoll. The third site is a community of chemosynthetic clams and worms that rely on methane-eating bacteria for nutrition. The worms are plentiful around the seeps and attract a number of predators such as fish and deep

Contact: Mark Schrope
Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution

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