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Deep-sea cameras spot unknown species on Palau’s ocean floor

By Pacific Island Times News Staff

Deep-sea camera systems deployed by Palau International Coral Reef Center captured life forms— some are familiar species while others are new discoveries— that provide glimpses into Palau’s mysterious deep ocean.

“What makes the deep ocean so fascinating is that it’s still largely unexplored,” said Dr. Louw Claassens, PICRC’s science officer who led a research team that

embarked on a five-day exploration of Palau’s deep-sea in November last year.

The team identified several known species in the hours of video footage, including cutthroat eels and giant Chaceon crabs, which were recorded 620 meters beneath the surface, PICRC said.

Some creatures in the footage have yet to be identified and "will require closer analysis to determine," PICRC said.

“So even the deep ocean areas in our own backyard are filled with unexpected discoveries," Claassens said.

The research team deployed two deep-sea camera systems, which were on loan from the Exploration Technology Lab, to document the life forms that inhabit the ocean floor that lies far beyond the reach of scuba divers.


“We have high hopes to continue studying Palau’s deep ocean, especially unexplored areas of the PNMS. We believe there’s much more left to discover," Claassens said.

The project was funded with a grant from the National Geographic Society.

These autonomous cameras sank hundreds meters to the ocean floor and captured 4K footage of deep-sea marine life. After recording three hours of video, the cameras automatically returned to the surface.


The team originally planned to use the cameras to survey a seamount in the Palau National Marine Sanctuary. However, PICRC said, because of scheduling conflicts, the team opted to deploy the cameras offshore of Airai.

The research team believes the footage from Airai offers a glimpse of what might be discovered in the sanctuary’s deep waters.

The research team included Dr. Louw Claassens, Victor Nestor and Adrian Ililau from the Center’s Research Department, who were accompanied by Dr. Jonatha Giddens, chief scientist of the National Geographic Society’s Exploration Technology Lab’s deep-sea research.

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