Extreme Deep: Mission to the Abyss depicts the mysteries of the ocean’s greatest depths: thermal vents and the unusual creatures that thrive near them, deep-sea research submersibles, and shipwrecks, including Titanic. The exhibit introduces biology, chemistry, geology, history, and the critical role that technology plays in exploring our world. This special exhibit will be at the Delaware Museum of Natural History from June 18 – September 5, 2016.
“Observation is the cornerstone of science,” says David Gallo, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution’s director of special projects. “In the oceans, because of their great depth, observation requires sophisticated technology. Using new computer technologies, we can gather information from the seafloor faster than ever before.”
Extreme Deep puts the technology necessary for deep-sea exploration in the hands of MOST guests. Visitors join fellow explorers in an interior replica of the submersible Alvin’s personnel sphere, which they can operate to simulate a dive to depths of up to three miles. They can fly a remotely operated vehicle over a model of the Titanic’s deck. They can test their skill at manipulating Alvin’s robotic arm by picking up lava rocks and clams from the seafloor while peering through a re-creation of Alvin’s 4-inch-thick viewport. It’s not as easy as it sounds.
Geologic forces deep within Earth drive the great crustal plates of our planet, building seafloor features that create hydrothermal vents. These enormous “black smokers” spew mineral-rich fluid into the ocean, supporting life vastly different from that flourishing in shallower water. Among the more than 500 species discovered near the vents are five-foot-long tubeworms with bright red heads, “squat lobsters,” and white clams the size of dinner plates.
The sun doesn’t penetrate water at these depths, so the inhabitants live their lives in total darkness. They depend on a unique life support system, chemosynthesis, which takes the place of photosynthesis at such great depths. These organisms often partner with bacteria to ingest nutrients from substances that would be toxic to humans, such as hydrogen sulfide. Thriving in this environment are swarms of shrimp and other animals that resemble their shallow-water cousins, such as scavenger crabs and beautiful, white sea anemone with tapering, pointed tentacles.