The deep-sea is one of the least studied areas of the Gulf of Mexico. Scientists continue to map, explore and study the deep-sea on ocean expeditions. In the Gulf of Mexico, one focus is the state and recovery of deep-water corals impacted by the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster. Multiple research expeditions have been done by the ECOGIG research consortium, and they and other research teams often live stream their work. As an expedition stalker, it’s always fun to tag along via live feeds.
Here are six things you might see if you’re watching along:
1. Sightings of rare and phenomenal creatures
2. A deep-sea brine pool, also known as the “Hot Tub of Despair”
The “Hot Tub of Despair” sounds more like something an ROUS would crawl out of than an actual real thing. But it’s real! At the bottom of the Gulf, there are areas around salt deposits where the water can become four times as salty as the surrounding seawater. The increase in salt concentration makes the water denser, and the higher density means water can pool into underwater “lakes” or “rivers.” Last year, 3,300 feet below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico, researchers explored one of these lakes. Due to the elevated levels of salt and raised temperature, some animals that fall in never make it out.
3. Deep-sea corals
Check out the beautiful pictures of deep-water corals here. It astounds me how little was known about deep-water corals in the Gulf when the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster happened over seven years ago. Since then, researchers have embarked on numerous expeditions to understand and track the recovery of deep-sea corals and animals in the Gulf. One consortium of scientists has cataloged 60 species of fish that had never before been documented in the Gulf before, including 12 newly-discovered species.
That’s it, just the chance to watch a squid change colors.
5. Marine snow
So much marine snow. When things aren’t swimming into view, it’s usually just marine snow, robot arms and science chatter. What is marine snow, you ask? Mostly made of plant and animal matter, it is the debris that sinks to the bottom of the ocean. We know now, that during the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster marine snow was an important pathway for oil sinking to the seafloor.
6. The next great encounter!
Follow research consortiums and ocean exploration vessels on their adventures.
Two of my favorites are:
The ECOGIG consortium in the Gulf: https://ecogig.org/ Their #jewelsoftheGulf cruise just ended a few days early because a tropical storm system is developing in the Gulf.
The Nautilus: http://www.nautiluslive.org/ An ocean exploration vessel where most of the above sightings were captured. This summer they are off the coast of California.