Mysteries of the Deep

Thursday, July 29, 2010 at 8 PM

Episode 3: Description

Starting in the deepest part of the ocean, Mysteries of the Deep takes us to a secret and magical world beneath the surface where for the first time in human history, technology is allowing us to explore the darkness and crushing pressure of the deep seas to reveal a strange world full of mystery and surprise.

What`s down here? What is its nature? What are its secrets?

Scientists, now modern day explorers, are in a race to answer these questions before human appetites and reckless exploitation forever destroy the deep seas’ undiscovered wonders. In Mysteries of the Deep , we join twenty scientists from four countries on an expedition to the Mariana Arc on the Pacific Ring of Fire. They want to map the deepest and the most dramatic topography on earth.

The Extreme and Unpredictable Deep

Here, there exists a trench that is 11,000 metres deep, and piling up behind it is a range of seamounts – underwater volcanoes – that would dwarf Everest. Extreme and unpredictable, this part of the world is an irresistible target for exploration. At four hundred metres they discover a lake of molten sulphur. Canadian scientist, Verena Tunnicliffe, finds crabs, shrimps and flatfish that can somehow flourish in these punishing conditions. And later, a scientific coup - the discovery of the first continuously erupting underwater volcano. The powerful explosion of lava and clouds of minerals is a stunning sight for even the scientists.

On the other side of the world Bruce Robison, an expert on mid-water animals, introduces us to creatures that live between two hundred and a thousand metres below the surface. Off Monterey Bay he explores some of the planet’s best researched deep water.  At two hundred metres down things start to get strange. Light is too faint for surface eyes to see, too faint to support plant life, but that does not mean there is no light. Here  a fantastical light show explodes before us as all kinds of creatures use bio-luminescence to communicate.

As we travel down the water column, we encounter even more bizarre and alien creatures including the longest organism on earth, the giant praya. Looking like an almost endless undulating undersea snake it is in fact thousands of animals linked together. Equally strange is the Disney-like Macropinna, the barreleye fish, whose invisible shield over its head and rotating eyes defies belief.

The Danger of Exploiting the Deep

Our relationship with the deep sea isn’t just one of scientific wonder and exploration. Mysteries of the Deep reveals the danger of exploiting the deep ocean before we know anything about it. As we deplete fish stocks along the coasts, industrial fisheries have gone further and further into deep waters, in an attempt to keep up with an ever-increasing global appetite for seafood. As our program reveals, the case of the orange roughy is a devastating example of the havoc we can wreak before knowing very much about how life operates in the deep sea.

A few visionaries, like Graham Hawke, understand that if we ever hope to truly understand life in the deep sea, we have to travel more lightly within its three dimensional world. Hawke’s Superfalcon, a new submersible, allows him to move among the creatures of the ocean more gracefully and un-obtrusively.

In the end, Mysteries of the Deep shows how these passionate scientists with their new technologies herald a new era of ocean exploration. A living entity, the global ocean is a mysterious, wondrous world that scientists are only now beginning to understand.

The series One Ocean is produced by CBC’s the nature of things and Merit Motion Pictures, in association with National Geographic Channels International. Mysteries of the Deep is directed by Elise Swerhone and written by Robert Lower. Producers are Sandra Moore and Merit Jensen Carr.  The Executive Producer is Merit Jensen Carr.