Last November, Palau International Coral Reef Center (PICRC) Researchers embarked on a new project to explore Palau’s deep-sea environment! Over the course of five days, the teamdeployed two deep-sea camera systems to document the strange and exciting life forms that inhabit our ocean floor.

The Research team included Dr. Louw Claassens, Victor Nestor and Adrian Ililau from the Center’s Research department, who were accompanied by Dr. Jonatha Giddens, chief scientist of the National Geographic Society’s Exploration Technology Lab’s deep-sea research. The project was funded with a grant from the National Geographic Society.

To reach the ocean floor, which lies far beyond the reach of scuba divers, the team used two deep-sea camera systems on loan from the Exploration Technology Lab. These autonomous cameras sank hundreds meters to the ocean floor and captured 4K footage of deep-sea marine life. After recording three hours of video, the cameras automatically returned to the surface.

 The team identified several known species in the hours of footage, including cutthroat eels and giant Chaceoncrabs. The identities of some creatures are still unknown and will require closer analysis to determine.

“What makes the deep ocean so fascinating is that it’s still largely unexplored,” said Dr. Louw Claassens, PICRC’s Science Officer. “So even the deep ocean areas in our own backyard are filled with unexpected discoveries!”

The team originally planned to use the cameras to survey a seamount in the Palau National Marine Sanctuary (PNMS). However, because of scheduling conflicts, the team opted to deploy the cameras offshore of Airai. For the research team, this footage offers a glimpse of what might be discovered in the Sanctuary’s deep waters.

“We have high hopes to continue studying Palau’s deep ocean, especially unexplored areas of the PNMS” continued Dr. Claassens. “We believe there’s much more left to discover.”

For now, these videos serve as some of our first glimpses into Palau’s mysterious deep ocean!

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