An underwater robot has captured a rare glimpse beneath the Antarctic Sea Ice, showing a thriving and colourful world.
Scientists from the Australian Antarctic Program drilled through the sea ice at O’Brien Bay near the Casey Research Station in East Antarctica. They then lowered a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) with the aim to retrieve a data-logger that had been previously deployed in November last year to collect information on the ocean. What the ROV captured was previously unseen images of sea sponges, worms, algae and starfish.
Australian Antarctic Division Biologist, Dr Glenn Johnstone, said that that the footage only adds to the incredible diversity of wildlife already found in Antarctica, “When you think of the Antarctic coastal marine environment, the iconic species such as penguins, seals and whales usually steal the show,” he said.
According to Dr Johnstone, these underwater communities are mostly protected by extremes in weather by the sea ice, which allows them to flourish, “These communities live in water that is -1.5 degrees Celsius year round and are covered in 1.5 metre thick sea ice for 10 months of the year.”
Scientists say they are only beginning to understand the amazing biodiversity and complexity of the Antarctic near-shore ecosystem and the threats it is facing into the future. As part of their study, the Australia Antarctic Program project is in the final stages of examining the impacts of ocean acidification caused by warming sea temperatures.
Watch the incredible footage of the discovery below.
Courtesy of the Australian Antarctic Division