Sunday, September 04, 2005

Hot news – deep sea fluorescent shark! (Link at end of message)

First a little history on fluorescence exploration in the deep sea. In 2003 NightSea founder Dr. Charles Mazel had the privilege of being the chief scientist on the first-ever project that outfitted a manned submersible to explore for fluorescence on the deep sea floor. The ONR-supported expedition used the Johnson Sea-Link submersible operated by Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution, making a total of 18 dives to depths as great as 850 meters (2800 feet), at a variety of locations through the Bahamas. Custom-made exciter filters and filter holders converted the submersible's powerful 400W HID lights into sources of blue light to excite fluorescence, while a custom barrier filter was fitted over the submersible's camera so that fluorescence could be recorded on video. The observer in the submersible's viewing sphere wore a pair of the NightSea yellow visor glasses. On these dives we discovered fluorescence in a variety of deepwater corals and anemones, as well as in sponges, crinoids, and other invertebrates.

In 2004 another set of fluorescence exploration dives was made as part of Project DeepScope, supported by the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration. This wasn't an all-fluorescence expedition, but some of the dives were dedicated to fluorescence using the same basic equipment that had been used in 2003. Besides Charlie Mazel, fluorescence participants included Dr. Michael Matz (University of Florida), who had made the breakthrough discovery on the nature of the fluorescing pigments in corals, Dr. Joerg Wiedenmann (University of Ulm, Germany), and Dr. Eran Fuchs (Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution). You can read all about that expedition at http://oceanexplorer.noaa.gov/explorations/04deepscope/welcome.html, and for fluorescence you should particularly check out the August 10 and August 16 logs, and the page on detecting fluorescence, http://oceanexplorer.noaa.gov/explorations/04deepscope/background/imaging/imaging.html.

Many more discoveries of deep sea fluorescence were made during the 2004 trip, including a dive during which Charlie came upon a fluorescent shark at a depth of about 600 meters (2000 feet), but was unable to get good video because the shark lifted off the bottom and swam away too quickly

That brings us up to date. The DeepScope 2005 expedition is just wrapping up, having suffered interruptions from Hurricane Katrina and from a broken winch needed to retrieve the submersible. Mike Matz reports back that using the NightSea filter set on the submersible he found another fluorescent shark, and this one had the courtesy to settle on the bottom and pose for pictures. You can read about this exciting discovery and see the image at http://oceanexplorer.noaa.gov/explorations/05deepscope/logs/aug22/aug22.html.


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Charles Mazel
NightSea
20 New England Business Center
Andover, MA 01810 USA
877 436-9262 (toll free)
978 685-6410
Fax 978 689-3232