Everett, WA - October 31, 2018 – Research scientists and explorers captured 360-degree images to depths of nearly 1000 feet near Friday Harbor in the San Juan Islands during the 2018 Salish Sea Survey Expedition. The Boxfish 360 camera, courtesy of Oceans 360, a non-profit focused on increasing awareness of the importance of the world’s oceans, was mounted to the exterior of Cyclops 1, a 5-person manned submersible, owned and operated by OceanGate Inc.
The expedition, conducted in early September 2018, included seven dives over five days to allow three teams of scientists to observe the feeding strategies of deep-sea red urchins, document the sand wave habitat of Pacific sand lances, and assess the potential impacts of scientific trawling on the ecosystem.
An internally mounted GoPro Omni and the external Boxfish 360-degree cameras were deployed during all research projects and helped to document the existence of red urchins at a depth of 284 meters (932 feet) – more than twice the depth previously recorded. Red urchins feed on kelp that typically grows in depths of less than 100 feet, so documenting the existence of urchins at more than nine times this depth validates the flow of this food source from shallow subtidal kelp forests to the deepest parts of the Salish Sea.
Scientists also captured photographs using a stereoscopic camera that takes pairs of images to create a three-dimensional effect, similar to human eyesight, and also allows for gathering quantitative information about the environment – such as measuring fish to precise lengths and doing a full 360-degree reconstruction of the visual field. Provided by NOAA’s Alaska Fisheries Science Center, this was the first time the stereoscopic camera has been deployed on a manned submersible.
Dive time for all three research projects during the 2018 Salish Sea Survey Expedition was funded by the SeaDoc Society as part of their annual competitive grants program, with additional funding provided by the OceanGate Foundation. The expedition was based at the University of Washington Friday Harbor Laboratories in Friday Harbor, Washington.
OceanGate Foundation is a not-for-profit organization that uses access to manned submersibles and related technologies to explore the wonders of the ocean and inspire ocean education and STEM learning.
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