The deep sea dwellers of the Southern Ocean

Photo of crab in the Southern Ocean
Scientists have released footage from the Southern Ocean. (Photo: Australian Antarctic Division)

Cameras deployed nearly 3000 metres below the surface of the Southern Ocean have captured rare vision of the deep sea dwellers who call the world’s coldest ocean home.  

In the lead up to World Oceans Day today, scientists at the Australian Antarctic Division have released underwater vision captured in the Southern Ocean.

The vision shows a crab, squid, lobster, fish – including Patagonian toothfish – and sharks living in the dark and cold depths.

Fisheries Research Assistant, Dale Maschette, said specially designed cameras are attached to the long lines of commercial fishing boats operating around Macquarie Island, Heard Island, in the Ross Sea and East Antarctica.

“By deploying cameras on each of the fishing vessels we are able to monitor any potential impact on the environment,” Mr Maschette said.

“It also allows us to capture vision from locations we can’t otherwise access and map the communities living at the bottom of the Southern Ocean.”

Mr Maschette said the cameras are designed to record 15 minutes every hour, with the lines in the water for around 24 hours at a time.

The vision has turned up some surprises, including capturing adult krill mating at 1400m and lots of squid attracted to the lights.

“Adult krill being that deep, let alone breeding, isn’t something that we would have expected to see,” Mr Maschette said.

“We know squid are attracted to lights but it has been really interesting to see how many have come up to our cameras.”

Mr Maschette said this work builds on earlier research supported by the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation which examined the impacts of fishing on benthic communities around Heard Island