From: Wood's Hole Oceanographic Institution Newsroom
Published April 11, 2014 01:16 PM

Who could EVER live in New Zealand's Kermadec Trench?

An international team of researchers led by deep-sea biologist Tim Shank of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) will use the world's only full-ocean depth, hybrid remotely operated vehicle, Nereus, and other advanced technology to explore life in the depths of the Kermadec Trench. The 40-day expedition, which begins on April 12th, kicks off an ambitious three-year collaborative effort funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). The goal of the project, known as Hadal Ecosystem Studies (HADES), is to conduct the first-ever systematic study of life in ocean trenches, comparing it to the neighboring abyssal plain—flat areas of the seafloor usually found at depths between 3,000 and 6,000 meters.

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Due to extreme pressures of these deep-sea environments and technical challenges involved in reaching them, ocean trenches remain among the least explored environments on the planet.

"We know relatively little about life in our ocean trenches—the deepest marine habitat on Earth. We didn't have the technology to do these kind of detailed studies before," said Shank. "This will be a first-order look at community structure, adaptation, and evolution—how life exists in the trenches."

The multi-disciplinary international science team includes NSF-funded co-principal investigators Jeff Drazen of the University of Hawaii (UH), and Paul Yancey of Whitman College (WC), and international collaborators Malcolm Clark and Ashley Rowden of the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) in New Zealand, Henry Ruhl of the National Oceanography Centre at the University of Southampton, Alan Jamieson, Daniel Mayor and Stuart Piertny of the University of Aberdeen (UA).

"The proposal to study the deep-sea environment as part of HADES was high-risk, but, we hope, also high-reward," added David Garrison, program director in NSF's Division of Ocean Sciences. "Through this exciting project, we may shine a light on the darkness in Earth's deep-ocean trenches, discovering surprising results all along the way."

Another goal of this project is to use telepresence technology aboard the R/V Thomas G. Thompson to allow the public to share in the discoveries during several live-streaming web events from the seafloor that will include narration from the science team. The scientists' work will be chronicled in video, still images and regular blog updates on the expedition website: http://www.whoi.edu/hades/

The Kermadec Trench, off the northeastern tip of New Zealand's North Island, is the fifth deepest trench in the world with a maximum of depth of 10,047 meters (32,963 feet or 6.24 miles). It is also one of the coldest trenches due to the inflow of deep-water originating from Antarctica.

Read more at WHOI.

Kermadec Trench image via WHOI. 

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