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Marine researchers report advances in deep-sea exploration

Marine researchers report advances in deep-sea exploration

Posted May. 13, 2011 08:11,   


A remotely operated underwater vehicle (ROV) developed by the Korea Ocean Research & Development Institute has robot arms capable of lifting objects up to 160 kilograms and looking at every corner of hydrothermal vents.

“With a high-definition camera, the ROV filmed crabs and tiny crustaceans living in hydrothermal vents,” said Lee Gyeong-yong, head of the institute’s hydrothermal vents development team. “Videos (of hydrothermal vents) including coordinates of the locations are rare in the world.”

The image filmed by the vehicle showed bright-colored crabs, spiral shellfish, sea anemones and other deep-sea creatures clustered on hydrothermal vents. At 1 kilometer under water, animals do not have to be dark-colored to stay invisible from predators because sunlight does not reach that far. The eyes of certain predators degenerate because of lack of use.

Senior researcher Joo Se-jong said, “White blind crabs that inhabit hydrothermal vents never leave the place where they were born because they cannot see.”

Many other creatures can only live around hydrothermal vents.

Lee’s team plans to use the vehicle for additional surveys late this year. Once they create a two-dimensional map, the team plans to drill a hole through hydrothermal vents and measure their sizes to make a three-dimensional map.

“Our goal is to find 600-ton hydrothermal vents,” Lee said. “As early as 2015, we expect to be able to win the right to develop them from Tonga.”

Further surveys are needed to determine the size of the hydrothermal vents the team surveyed this time.

The team was Korea’s first to film the vents 1 kilometer under water and use a remotely operated underwater vehicle with robot arms at such a depth.

The Dong-A Ilbo is the first to release images of hydrothermal vents taken by the team, though coordinates have been deleted for information security.