The “Candelabra” black smoker at a water depth of 3,300 meters in the Logatchev Hydrothermal Field on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge (Image Credit: MARUM − Zentrum für Marine Umweltwissenschaften, Universität Bremen, CC BY 4.0, Image Cropped)
The deep sea is an unimaginably large and dark environment, and humanity’s attempt to learn about it is comically clumsy. Sampling the animals in the deep sea is often done “blindly”, by dragging nets along the ocean floor or through the water column, or bringing up cores of deep-sea sediment. The most sophisticated, precise and least destructive method is using underwater robots that have arms that can be controlled remotely to sample specific animals in real time, though naturally, this is also the most expensive.
These sampling efforts are comparable to sampling a rainforest with a helicopter. At night. With a map that a kindergartener drew. How long would it take to get a reliable record of all the different species of bird, beetle, monkey and flower found in the rainforest? How long to find a male and female of every species?
Drawing of deep-sea fishes by ‘Résultats des Campagnes Scientifiques’ (1889) by Albert I, Prince of Monaco (1848–1922). (Image Credit: Rawpixel Ltd., CC BY 4.0, Image Cropped)
If you were asked what the largest and most common habitat on Earth is, you may intuitively think of forests, grasslands or deserts. When you think of the least explored regions, pictures of some far-off rainforest may come to mind.
Introducing: the deep sea, covering over 70% of our planet, and arguably the most unexplored environment on Earth, which is simultaneously highly vulnerable and currently threatened by human activities.