2007: Exploring the Inner Space of the Celebes Sea

Our expedition takes us to unexplored waters south of the Philippine Islands, in search of the strange, and possibly unknown, fishes, jellyfish, squids and shrimp that live in the dark deep waters of the Celebes Sea. Surrounded by much shallower ocean waters, the Celebes plunges to over 5,000 meters, and in these waters there may well be species that have evolved in isolation from other surrounding waters, waiting to be discovered with modern exploration tools.

We'll be diving in the middle of the richest marine environment on Earth - the "coral triangle" of Southeast Asia. This region, including the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia, is known to have the highest species diversity of shallow water marine animals. The same may be true for deep-water creatures, but nobody knows yet. Using a remote-operated vehicle (ROV) that can dive to 3,000 meters, we'll get High-Definition video and still pictures, and collect specimens to bring back for study. With multiple large trawl nets, we plan to collect even more samples. Baited cameras moored to the bottom will snap photos and video of big animals attracted to the free meal. Up in the warm surface waters we'll go SCUBA diving to film and collect the delicate zooplankton.

Our area of operation will be just to the southeast of the Sulu Islands, and we expect to spend two weeks working there. We will be on the research vessel Hydrographer Presbitero, operated by the Philippines National Mapping and Resource Information Authority. We will be joined by scientists from several Philippines universities and research agencies.

Working together with our colleagues from the Philippines, we'll use all these samples, videos, images and data to increase our understanding of the biological composition and the nature of the deep midwater environment of the Celebes Sea, and compare it with what is known about other deep-sea regions around the world.