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Upcoming expedition: The Great Australian Deep-Sea Coral and Canyon Adventure

This expedition will be of great significance, as SOI and the science team undertakes the first ROV-based deep sea exploration of submarine canyons that have formed offshore southwestern Australia. For the first time, these unique deep-sea canyons will be documented, imaged, and strategically sampled by ROV SuBastian. Sampling will not only be for identifying yet to be discovered species, but also to undertake comprehensive, high-resolution geochemical analyses of, for example, coral skeletons post-cruise.

The area along the shelf-edge of southwestern Australia holds a number of unexplored submarine canyons that face the Southern Ocean region. Characterized by its steep-sided, interconnected system, this unexplored canyon system offers great prospects for the discovery and exploration of new life within its deep-water habitats. In addition to genuine frontier exploration, key species, such as deep-water hard corals, are highly prized environmental archives that can provide invaluable ‘windows’ into the recent and geological past for understanding both long-term natural climate variations and how anthropogenic-driven climate change is impacting the deep oceans. Corals from the southwest Australian submarine canyons are especially significant given their proximity to the all-important Southern Ocean. The waters formed in the Southern Ocean feed all major ocean basins so play a central role in driving the global ocean-climate system.

The team is advancing the findings of their successful 2015 expedition to Perth Canyon, which offered significant optimism for finding prospective habitats, new species, and particular coral types suitable for proxy applications. In all, the team plans on visiting three submarine canyon systems: Bremer, Leeuwin, and Perth Canyons.

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