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This blog is my scribbling-pad from exploring the deep ocean, the marine life that thrives there, and the challenges for the future of our blue planet.

There is something for everyone in the sea - incredible beauty for the artist, the excitement and danger of exploration for the brave and restless, an open door for the ingenuity and inquisitiveness of the clever, a new world for the bored, food for the hungry, and incalculable material wealth for the acquisitive – and all of these in addition to the pure clean wonder of increasing knowledge.

John Steinbeck, 1966 letter to Popular Science magazine

For online diaries I've produced from expeditions, please visit TheseAreTheVoyages.net
For my "popular science" articles in magazines & newspapers, and books, please see Writing

A brief history of exploring the deep ocean

A timeline of events, from ancient Greece to modern day - and spanning discoveries in deep-sea biology, developments in diving technology, and other threads - to trace some of the whens, hows, and whys of exploring the deep... (more)

The inner space race: then and now

Sixty years ago today, Jacques Piccard and Don Walsh climbed into an undersea craft called Trieste and dived nearly 11 kilometres down to the deepest point in the ocean. But they are much less well-known than the first astronauts who walked on the Moon, and the story of the earlier deep-sea pioneers whose achievements led to their dive is seldom told... (more)

Spires of sulfur

Deep-sea vents unlike most others, in a seafloor crater in the Antarctic - with spires of sulfur spewing sulfuric acid, a "dead zone" of deceased shrimp and squid... and yet life finds a way. Some background on the discovery of "Kemp Caldera" and its inhabitants, revealed in our research paper out this week... (more)

'Ask an Ocean Explorer'

As a count-down to the publication of my book 'Ask an Ocean Explorer', here's a flavour of its mix of the history of ocean exploration, inhabitants of the abyss, undersea technology, and how our lives are connected to the hidden face of our planet... (more)

The journey of our species into the deep

I think that August 15th should be #HalfMileDownDay - the day in 1934 when people first ventured that deep in the ocean, and an opportunity to celebrate humanity's journey to the depths beyond. But the story of human exploration of the deep sea and the names of those involved are much less well known than the history of space travel. So here's a quick run-down of record-setting deep dives, with depths and dates... (more)

Exploring environmental changes in the Antarctic with Blue Planet II

I joined the BBC Blue Planet II expedition to the Antarctic, where we made the first dives in minisubmarines to reach 1 km deep there. As a deep-sea biologist, those dives gave me new insights into how “dropstones” (typically car-sized boulders that fall from passing icebergs) shape the pattern of life on the ocean floor around Antarctica. But the expedition also provided an opportunity to collect data about the environment... (more)

Science behind TV's Octonauts

If you want to feed the fascination of your little ones with the ocean, the Octonauts adventures are great - they firmly feature real science. So here are a few of my favourites with the links to the actual research papers that they're based on... (more)

Deep-sea versus sci-fi

William Beebe, who was one of the first two bathynauts to venture into the ocean depths, once wrote that "at these abyssmal depths there are fish that can outdragon any mere figment of human imagination". So what sci-fi aliens resemble inhabitants of our blue planet? Here's a quick run-down... (more)

Just how big are the oceans as a habitat?

"The ocean: the largest habitat on Earth" - Sir David Attenborough's first line in the "prequel" to Blue Planet II actually takes us down a rabbit-hole to think about an often-heard statement in a different way... (more)

What do Sir Roger Moore and a deep-sea fish have in common?

Sir Roger Moore (whose James Bond once quipped "Where there's an ocean, a marine biologist is never on holiday" in "The Spy Who Loved Me") has another claim to fame: according to one of his friends, he may have inspired the choc-ice-on-a-stick Magnum ice cream. But Sir Roger may share the distinction of inspiring ice-cream innovation with a deep-sea fish... (more) WHSA Ocean Pout

Mapping the deep, and the real story of the "95% unexplored" oceans

We're often told that we know more about the surface of Mars / the Moon / Venus (delete at whim) than the depths of the ocean, and that 95% of the ocean is "unexplored". But is that true? It depends on what we mean by "explored", and how we map the ocean floor. So let’s examine some of the facts behind the “95 percent unexplored” meme and those comparisons with our celestial neighbours... (more)

Which came first in whales: extreme breath-hold diving or large body size?

Our planet's largest inhabitants are astounding animals. An adult blue whale can have a body mass of ~125 tonnes - nearly twice the body mass estimated for the largest known dinosaur. And what's really astounding about that huge body is that it grows so quickly: from a single fertilised egg to leviathan in much the same time as our bodies grow. That makes blue whales almost impossible animals - but perhaps there is a link to consider between the huge size and breath-hold diving ability of "baleen" whales... (more)

Onwards & downwards: when ROVs or AUVs are lost in ocean exploration

This week saw the news that the Nereus hybrid remotely operated vehicle (HROV) has been lost while exploring the Kermadec Trench at a depth of 9.99 km. Here is a round-up of some of the remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) and autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) that have been lost in the service of deep-sea exploration - but also what they had achieved, and how the research in which they were involved has continued... (more)

Mining at deep-sea vents: what are the impacts on marine life?

Deep-sea hydrothermal vents are one of the seafloor environments now being targeted for mining of their mineral resources, because the "chimneys" that grow at vents are particular rich in metals such as copper, which we need for modern technology. But what are the possible impacts on marine life from mining at deep-sea vents? (more)

No longer in the dark: our choice for the future of the deep ocean

The frontiers of space have provided iconic images of exploration, such as Buzz Aldrin's photograph of a footprint on the lunar surface. Meanwhile, the first "bathynauts" to reach one of our planet's greatest features - the mid-ocean ridge - did so four years after Apollo 11 touched down in the Sea of Tranquility. And now that that the deep ocean is no longer out of sight, it is our choice whether its future iconic images will inspire or shame us... (more)

Sex at vents: lights on or off?

If life at hydrothermal vents and other "chemosynthetic" habitats in the deep ocean is divorced from the sunlit world above, why do some species there follow seasonal cycles in their sex lives? Shouldn’t the passage of our tilted planet around its star be completely irrelevant to life in these chemically-powered islands on the ocean floor? (a post for Deep-Sea News)... (more)