Professor Louise Allcock, Head of Zoology in the Ryan Institute at NUI Galway has embarked on a groundbreaking multidisciplinary scientific research Mission to the Seychelles to investigate the unexplored depths of the Indian Ocean. Professor Allcock is second-in-command with Nekton’s Principle Scientist, Lucy Woodall along with 18 crew members and 33 scientists on board the six-week Mission, which ends on the 17 April.
The British-led Nekton ‘First Descent’ Mission began on (Thursday, 7 March). This unique mission will explore the depths of the Indian Ocean, one of the planet’s last great unexplored frontiers where the scientists intend to fully explore the deep seas around the Seychelles. The Mission expects to discover new species, as well as document evidence of climate change and of human-driven pollution.
Nekton is an independent, non-profit research institute that works with the University of Oxford to increase scientific understanding of the oceans. It has chartered the Ocean Zephyr, a Danish-flagged supply ship, to explore the waters around the Seychelles, a collection of islands about 1,500 kilometres (930 miles) east of the African coast, over a seven-week period. This is the first of a half-dozen regions the Nekton Mission plans to explore before the end of 2022 when scientists will present their research at a summit on the state of the Indian Ocean.
Scientists on board the Seychelles Mission will survey underwater life by diving below depths of 30 meters (98 feet) that the tropical sun barely reaches. Using two crewed submarines and a remotely operated submersible they’ll be able to document organisms and habitats up to 500 meters (1,640 feet) deep, while sensors will offer a glimpse of depths of up to 2,000 meters (6,560 feet).
At least 50 ‘first descents’ are planned on this expedition where Nekton will be working on behalf of the Seychelles Government and partners. First Descent will contribute to establishing a baseline of marine life and the state of the ocean in the Seychelles, which will provide important data for policy decisions on ocean conservation, climate change and fishing. This data will be used to support the Seychelles in the successful implementation of its Marine Spatial Plan in support of a sustainable blue economy. Seychelles has committed to protecting 30% of their ocean territory (an equivalent of twice the size of the entire UK) by 2020 and is a bellwether for marine conservation in the Indian Ocean.
Nekton’s Principle Scientist Lucy Woodall says: “I am delighted to share this opportunity with the Seychelles government and citizens to document unexplored waters to create a baseline for future generations and be a beacon for future marine conservation and management globally.”
Professor Louise Allcock, Head of Zoology, Ryan Institute at NUI Galway, said: “It’s very exciting to be deploying so many different pieces of equipment and doing such a thorough survey of the ocean.”
Nekton and Associated Press will syndicate daily live newsfeeds, images and live underwater dive footage from the Mission. See @nektonmission, #FirstDescent, https://nektonmission.org/ and https://apnews.com/SeychellesOceanMission and @AP.
Sky News and Sky Atlantic will film live documentaries onboard from 14-20 March and daily live coverage from the Mission. See Sky’s ‘Deep Ocean Live: The Mission’ at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V7Bb0HdEVLU&feature=youtu.be and @skynews.