Explore the Mysteries of the Deepest Oceans  

Explore the mysteries of the deep sea, discover creatures no one knew existed until recently and experience the technology that allows scientists to travel to the bottom of the ocean in Extreme Deep: Mission to the Abyss, opening Saturday, April 2 at the Academy. 

Newly discovered life forms, bubbling thermal vents, compact research submersibles and shipwrecks including the Titanic are among the attractions in this exciting adventure. Visitors will observe firsthand the technology that only recently has allowed scientists to travel to the ocean floor and discover the amazing creatures that thrive in total darkness. 

“These days you need to go deep to discover something never before seen in the history of life on Earth,” said Mark Sabaj, PhD, the Academy’s collection manager of fishes. “Paleontologists do this by searching rocks in deep time. Oceanographers do this by searching the depths of our oceans. What they have found is truly new to human eyes and provides unique insights into evolution and biodiversity.” 

A new study has found that there is a lot more life on the seafloor than there is higher up in the ocean, and nearly two-thirds of that life has not been formally identified. Some of that life, the study says, helps regulate Earth’s climate. 

Giant Tubeworms and Clams Await 

Among the more than 500 newly discovered species at the deepest depths are five-feet-long tubeworms with bright red heads and giant white clams the size of dinner plates. Museum visitors will see these and learn about the geological forces deep within the earth and how superheated water erupting from deep vents supports all kinds of life forms. The sun doesn’t penetrate the water at these depths, yet seafloor inhabitants thrive in total darkness thanks to a unique life support system. 

Visitors also can: 

  • test their skill at manipulating a robotic arm of a replica of the submersible Alvin to pick up lava rocks and clams similar to the way scientists gather samples from the ocean floor. 
  • fly a remotely operated vehicle over a model of the deck of the Titanic.
  • see how currents created by superheated water erupting from thermal vents carry nutrients that support life forms few ever dreamed existed. 
  • examine scientific specimens from the Academy’s collection that have a story to tell about their deep-sea origins. Specimens include crinoids, charismatic shrimp, anglerfish, ghosties and assfish (yes that’s right). 
  • read ocean-themed books for all ages in the book nook decorated with an octopus lamp loaned by a local artist and Alvin’s family photos. 
  • enjoy a video experience that reveals how deep the ocean is compared to Philadelphia City Hall. 

Extreme Deep reveals the secrets of the ocean and enriches our understanding of our connection to it. 

“Our ocean is facing its biggest threat in history due to degrading ecosystems. Yet its water contains life that helps us breathe, provides food for billions of people, and absorbs heat from the sun which helps regulate our climate,” said Academy President and CEO Scott Cooper. “As the Academy and Drexel University celebrate Water Year in 2022, I hope everyone will gain a deeper understanding of our vital ocean and help protect it for future generations.” 

Extreme Deep: Mission to the Abyss, will be on view through Sunday, July 24. Extreme Deep is presented by Evergreen Exhibitions in collaboration with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

To read about the recent discovery of Ernest Shackleton’s sunken ship in Antarctica and the surprising invertebrates hanging out on it, use this link to go to The New York Times Science Times.

By Carolyn Belardo

Photos by Ramon Torres

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