Author: Katie Burton
‘You almost pinch yourself and think you’re on some distant planet,’ explains Professor Alex Rogers as he reminisces about his dives into the deep ocean around Bermuda. For him, every trip in the Triton submarine, whose clear dome provides an unprecedented view of the ocean’s inhabitants, is magical. ‘There’s always something novel to see and the landscapes are fantastical. It’s a very humbling experience,’ he adds.
Rogers is a co-founder of Nekton, an organisation exploring the depths of the ocean for the benefit of humankind. In July 2016, Rogers and a team of marine scientists launched Nekton’s ‘Mission I’ to investigate the ocean around Bermuda, the Sargasso Sea and the northwest Atlantic. During the mission, dive teams, manned submarines and remote-controlled vehicles collected thousands of samples from the ocean’s surface down to 1,500 metres. Now, nearly two years later, the results of the mission have been processed and the team has announced some striking finds.
There was a great deal beneath the waves to excite the Nekton team, but the most important discovery of all was the existence of a new zone in the ocean, dubbed the ‘rariphotic’ (or ‘rare light’) zone. First mentioned by Dr Carole Baldwin from the Smithsonian Institute in March 2018, and now confirmed by the Nekton mission, the rariphotic zone extends from 130m to 300m and is the fourth zone confirmed in the top 3,000m of the ocean.