SEP 04, 2015 6:23 AM PDT

There's a New Reef In Town

In space exploration of new planets, researchers use advanced rovers to get data and photos. These specially equipped vehicles roam around discovering the geography, taking samples and sending back information. From the Lunar Rover that was used to examine the surface of the moon, to today’s Mars Rover, these remotely operated vehicles can go where humans can’t. They can be exposed to atmospheres that could not support life, they can work 24/7 and they can be left behind when no longer needed.
A stunning image captured by an ROV of a new coral reef
Undersea exploration is another area where these high-tech contraptions can be valuable to scientists looking to probe the depths of the sea. Remotely operated vehicles that go to the ocean floor have come a long way since the DSV Alvin explored the Titanic. That mission was manned, and attached to its support boat via air hoses and cables, but today’s rovers are independent and operated remotely.

Recently, researchers from Australia used a Remotely Operated Vehicle or ROV to explore the deep undersea world of Wilsons Promontory, an area that forms the southern most part of Australia, in the state of Victoria. Much of the area is preserved as Wilsons Promontory Marine National Park and while the area is well known for it’s beautiful landscapes and forests, the undersea world may now eclipse that in terms of interest. The recent discovery of a large coral reef has scientists rushing to find out if this reef could be even bigger than the Great Barrier Reef.

The ROV used by the team from Parks Victoria is capable of diving as deep as 328 feet. It comes equipped with cameras that sent back photos and video that no one was expecting. As the ROV went further into the sea, it found sponge gardens in colors not seen before, large coral fans and walls, as well as possibly hundreds of species of exotic fish and other sea creatures. 

The area explored by the ROV hasn’t been looked at much because of the depth and difficulty of getting to some parts of the ocean floor there, but there had been previous studies that mapped the region and scientists were hopeful they could reach what the maps were showing.

In a press release Dr. Steffan Howe, a Parks Victoria science manager said, “The exciting discoveries follow previous research that mapped the park’s sea floor in detail. The maps identified some amazing underwater structures very deep beneath the ocean, but we did not know what sort of marine life was there. These latest expeditions used cutting-edge technology including underwater video cameras and a robotic vehicle to record the spectacular marine life found in many of the deeper areas of the park for the first time.”

In addition to the coral, sponge gardens and other plant life, the ROV was able to capture video of holes as deep as 295 feet which were home to large schools of sea perch, a species that can grow to just under 3 feet in length. Other species found included the Longsnout Boarfish (Pentaceropsis recurvirostris) and the Australian barracuda (Sphyraena novaehollandiae) two species that are the subject of active conservation and preservation programs led by the Australian government.
 
Dr. Howe believes this new discovery will bring Victoria’s marine life to the attention of the world. He went on to say “It is important for us to have a comprehensive understanding of the habitats and inhabitants in Wilsons Promontory Marine National Park to help guide how we manage this important area in the future. The discoveries and footage will also enable us to showcase Victoria’s spectacular marine environment to the thousands of visitors who come to this park each year.” Check out the video of this amazing undersea discovery
About the Author
  • I'm a writer living in the Boston area. My interests include cancer research, cardiology and neuroscience. I want to be part of using the Internet and social media to educate professionals and patients in a collaborative environment.
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