Deep Water Exploration of Ashmore Reef Marine Park of Australia

Deep Water Exploration of Ashmore Reef Marine Park of Australia
A robotic exploration of the Ashmore Reef Marine Park sea floor revealed the colourful denizens of the deep waters, Photo Credit: Schmidt Ocean Institute

Sit back and enjoy the stunning visuals from the seafloor of Ashmore Reef Marine Park in Australia

OT Staff
May 12 , 2021
03 Min Read

As the deep diving robot ROV SuBastian explored the mesophotic (deep water) zone in Ashmore Reef Marine Park, Australia, it sent back marvellous images of the seafloor and its denizens, to the delight of the scientists attached to the expedition.

A colourful image of the hard corals found in the depths of the marine park

The images revealed the great diversity of the coral-dominated areas, calcareous algal beds, and sponge gardens.

Called Gorgonian fans, these corals have polyps with tentacles arranged as a pennate – that is one main tentacle with branches off of it, like a feather, which can withdraw into the leathery tissue of the coral

Along with the images, it also helped scientists gather detailed information about the underwater life.

The Gorgorian fans host pygmy seahorses, which can blend with the corals

The exploration also yielded many secrets.

Sea snakes once quite abundant at Ashmore Reef are believed to have largely disappeared from here. During the expedition a large number of sea snakes were seen

Scientists also discovered a previously thought locally extinct short-nosed sea snake

Located in the Australian External Territory of Ashmore and Cartier Islands, 630 kilometres north of Broome and 111 kilometres south of the Indonesian island of Roti, the Ashmore Reef Marine Park is largely known as a sanctuary for seabirds, shorebirds, marine turtles, dugongs, and many other marine species.

Organised by Schmidt Ocean Institute, the 18-day scientific expedition was led by Dr. Karen Miller of the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS).Dr Miller watches in awe the feed from the science camera of the ROV SuBastian

The science team, which also included scientists from the University of Western Australia, Curtin University and Western Australia Museum with support from Parks Australia, studied the mesophotic zone, gathering information about the species found between 50 and 150 meters.

The robot helped scientists to look at animals and these underwater areas in great detail, the Institute said.

Inside the wet lab on R/V/ Falkor, Dr Nerida Wilson of Western Australia Museum inspects a Gorgonian fan that was collected on one of the dives

According to Dr Miller, the observations of the reefs showed the mesophotic zone at Ashmore to be diverse, vibrant, and healthy.  “We found no evidence of coral damage, showing the marine park is helping to preserve this special ecosystem,” she said.

Benthic ctenophore are known to live among soft corals

Interestingly, the expedition also included Australian artist Ellie Hannon as the Artist-at-Sea berth. She captured the beauty of the reef through her paintings created on-board.


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