Scientists from the University of Aberdeen in Scotland have photographed for the first time fish and shrimp at Europe’s deepest point, the Oinousse Pit, 5111 metres or 3.2 miles below the surface of the Mediterranean Sea, southwest of the Greek town of Pylos.
The Aberdeen scientists accompanied a research cruise carrying out a survey for a KM3NeT consortium which is preparing to place a neutrino telescope at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea. According to the University of Aberdeen, the telescope will comprise a large array of sensors connected with a cable to computers on shore which will detect flashes of light produced in the deep sea by high energy neutrinos – tiny particles travelling at close to the speed of light – from distant objects in the Universe such as gamma ray bursters, supernovae and colliding stars.
Accompanying the research cruise were members of the University’s Oceanlab – a sub-sea research facility which investigates life throughout the world’s oceans – who are studying deep sea life that may or may not affect the working of the telescope. They are also interested in attaching mini observatories to the telescope infrastructure to study marine life.
Thomas Linley, Oceanlab research assistant, was aboard the research cruise and sent his carefully crafted and baited camera down into the Oinousse Pit, where he had to wait 16 hours before the camera came back on board.
“It took over two hours for the camera to sink to the bottom and it was pretty nerve wracking as I had built the equipment at Oceanlab,” said Linley. “The camera should withstand depths of 6,000 m but it had never been tested at this depths. Waiting for it to surface again felt like a very long time.”
“Until the camera came back I had no idea if we had captured anything but thankfully deep sea shrimp or Acanthephyra eximia arrived within the first few minutes and began to feed on the bait,” he said.
“About three hours later a fish was caught on film – the Mediterranean rat-tail or Coryphaenoides mediterraneus. We didn’t know it went to these depths and this was the first time this fish have been photographed at these depths.”
“I was hopeful that we would see something because after years of probing the deepest points of the world’s oceans, Oceanlab scientists have yet to discover a dark depth without life,” Linley added.
“These animals may be pushed to their limit at this depth, but they still persist. Finding and then photographing them extends the known maximum depth of this fish and proves that another one of the world’s deepest places harbours life.”
Source: The University of Aberdeen