Australia`s deep ocean frontier to be explored
Sydney, Dec 24: Marine scientists will for the first time explore Australia's deep sea territories, a pitch-black frontier one kilometer below the surface that is home to giant squid and other mysterious creatures of the deep.
Starting in late 2007, the three-year "Deep Australia" project led by researchers at the University of Queensland will use a pair of two-man submersibles to study marine life and, hopefully, discover new species.
"We only have a very limited idea of what really lives down in the depths around Australia," lead researcher Justin Marshall from the University of Queensland told a news agency.
"The only time we get to look at examples of what lies deep down is when a dead specimen, like a giant squid, floats to the surface or on deep-water trawling expeditions."
More than 80 percent of Australia's sea territory lies below 200 meters (660 feet). Previous explorations have relied on divers who are limited to a depth of 100 meters.
The specially designed submersibles will be able to explore one kilometer below the surface for six hours at a time.
"Deep Australia" will search for the elusive giant squid that can grow to 20 meters, as well as pygmy blue whales and big sharks that are known to live in the deep ocean.
"We expect to see species we've never seen before, that's a certainty," said Marshall.
The submersibles will use mechanical arms to examine samples of marine life and cameras to film the deep ocean creatures. A mother ship will have a cool room to store deep sea creatures at their natural ocean temperature.
The "Deep Australia" project will explore sites on the outer slopes of the Great Barrier Reef, Osprey Reef off the far north coast, deep sea canyons off the south and west coast and sea mountains off the east and southeast coasts.
Additional Notes: What can we expect from the region? New fish most likely, anything larger? Could a serpentine creature be found? Time will tell, 2007 is but a week away.