Scientists recently visited the deepest portions of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. The Marine Park exists within the Coral Sea and encompasses the world’s largest coral reef ecosystem (larger than Italy). During their expedition to the depths of the Marine Park, scientists discovered multiple undescribed species, observed a rare fish, collected several samples, and mapped a large expanse of seafloor.
A remotely operated vehicle, the ROV SuBastian exists aboard the R/V Falkor, a Schmidt Ocean Institute research vessel, and is used to explore deep sea habitats. Video footage of the seafloor at nearly 6,000 feet below sea level was used to assess geological and biological features. Deep-sea coral and ancient sediment (which could be up to 50 million years old) samples were also collected.
According to the expedition’s lead scientist, Dr. Brendan Brooke of Geoscience Australia, “Research vessel Falkor has integrated a range of technologies that have allowed us to work across the full range of ocean depths in the Coral Sea and to provide data for multiple disciplines including geology, biology, and oceanography.”
During this expedition, scientists also documented the first observation of a rare scorpionfish, Rhinopias agroliba. Scientists also mapped 38,395 square kilometers of ocean floor, which is an area three times larger than the Australian capital of Sydney, Australia. The maps encompass coral atolls that span the Queensland Plateau and 80 kilometers of canyons near the Marine Park.
“The data will help marine park managers to protect these ecosystems that are so vital for our global biodiversity and human health, ” said Dr. Jyotika Virmani, executive director of Schmidt Ocean Institute.