Venturing into the deep can be an illuminating experience for an environment so seemingly lacking in life, bringing to light new and bizarre species and behaviors as you float further into the abyss. Thanks to the Schmidt Ocean Institute, you can ride digitally alongside scientists who, using the research vessel Falkor, have been exploring the Phoenix Islands Archipelago. The expedition was no mean feat, constituting the most comprehensive deep-dive into deep-sea coral and sponge ecosystems in the region.
The subsequent footage is a real treat for the eyes and ears, being accompanied by the Institute’s token improv as marine scientists candidly remark on what they’re seeing (the phrase “wait… what?!” gets thrown around a lot). Their incredulity is appropriately placed, however, as their journey into the unknown turned up new marine species and deep-sea organisms across a 34-day expedition.
In that time period, the researchers on the expedition were lucky enough to make two sightings of a rare species of octopus which is famously transparent. The appropriately named glass octopus (Vitreledonella) can be seen floating through the water with its optic nerve, eyeballs, and digestive tract on show (some cephalopods have no shame). Previously there was little in the way of footage for these elusive animals, so the institute’s mesmerizing video is of great academic value. Prior to this, they had only been studied from remains found in the stomachs of predators when – as you can imagine – they didn’t look quite so fabulous.
The expedition was also joined by the institute’s trusty remote-operated vehicle (ROV) SuBastian, who, being immune to barotrauma, was able to grant the researchers safe passage to some of the oceans' more oppressive depths. Here, they caught a glimpse of the world’s largest fish, the whale shark, swimming into the murky depths. One of marine science’s greatest mysteries is that we still don’t know how or where these ocean giants give birth. Intriguing clips like this showing a whale shark diving beyond 12 meters (40 feet) have the potential to provide clues and bring us closer to the answer.
Some of the more comical footage from the expedition included a group of crabs who were caught in the act of stealing fish from one another, a unique behavior for these animals. As one crab chows down on his ill-gotten meal while the other fervently taps the coral looking for his lost booty, one of the researchers can be heard saying repeatedly, “I just hit the OMG button.”
You can find out more about the expedition’s findings here, just make sure you’ve got your OMG button at the ready.