OceanGate Expeditions and The Cape Eleuthera Institute are embarking on a Bahamas deep sea survey of the twilight zone of the Exuma Sound using the manned submersible Cyclops 1.
Beginning in October 2017, with multiple weeks of diving each season over a year, the exploration aims to uncover new details on deep sea sharks and the variety of species that inhabit the waters off the Great Bahama Bank continental shelf.
Stockton Rush, the CEO of OceanGate, explains: “We are excited to explore in depth the Exuma Sound in the Bahamas. It’s an ideal location for diving, thanks to the year round warm, clear water, and the abundance of natural resources and deep sea organisms. The deep water near the coast makes it a perfect fit for shore-based operation and use of Ms. Lars, our mobile subsea launch and recovery system. This is a great opportunity to advance scientific discovery as our Cyclops 1 can venture far below scuba depth to 500 meters.”
OceanGate will provide the submersible and dive crew, while The Cape Eleuthera Institute will share the scientific knowledge of its experts, and its facilities in the Bahamas. The submersible will enable repeated visits to rarely explored sites to enhance understanding of habitat association in species and estimates of abundance and diversity of life in the Bahamian Deep Sea.
Dr. Edd Brooks, COO at Cape Eleuthera Institute, said: “90% of the ocean is 600 feet or deeper. I am grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with OceanGate to learn more about the creatures that call the deep ocean home.”
Dr. Andrew Gill, director of the Cape Eleuthera Institute, adds: “We are incredibly fortunate to have these natural resources on our doorstep; having OceanGate’s manned submersible at our facility for a whole year will allow us to explore the depths of the Bahamas and collect information about deep sea organisms that are still very much a mystery, as well as observe better known creatures like sharks that are more often studied in the shallows.”
The first phase of the deep sea survey in October will be conducted as a series of one-day and three-day missions. Additional phases of the survey are planned in 2018 in January, April and July to better assess resident and transient populations across multiple seasons. In addition to the crew and content experts, individuals and groups of up to three are invited to join the expedition in the submersible and ashore as mission specialists. They will actively participate in the operation and receive training according to their interests and abilities to support the dive team as observers, photographers, or to help manage communications and subsea navigation on an authentic scientific expedition. The submersible will be made available on a charter basis for researchers to use as part of their specific research projects.