Pic o’ the Week: Glowing Waves Below the Milky Way, Big Sur, California

After a head-on car collision left him struggling to walk, photographer George Krieger found that strolling the nearby coast and snapping photos was a good form of therapy. He calls it his “Passion Therapy.” And it placed him on California’s Big Sur coastline recently while a natural phenomenon was producing glowing waves in the Pacific Ocean as the Milky Way glowed in the sky above. This stunning photo is one of many he snapped that evening. You can see them here and purchase prints.
 big sur-Krieger2a LARGE
George shares his story about the magic of this picture – and it’s worth reading all the way through:
“One night after visiting my dad in the hospital, I went out to shoot some long exposures along the Big Sur coastline.  I did this to relax and escape from a hectic week for an hour or two. When I arrived at Bixby Creek Bridge, it looked like the waves were being lit up by headlights from cars.  But there were no car lights on the water.  There were a couple of others there taking pictures too, and we chatted and figured that it was some kind of bioluminescence.  The effect was magical and looked like someone had blue dive lights underwater in certain areas. As the waves would roll in, areas of ocean would light up baby blue and then fade away. I took pictures for a little over an hour, until my batteries were exhausted.  When posting the images I asked Mark Siddall of the AMNH in NYC about the phenomena. We figured out due to weather, sea surface, and wind conditions, that this must be a dinoflagellate phytoplankton bloom. Steve Haddock from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute said  “It is almost certainly a dinoflagellate bloom. We are also seeing relative high bioluminescence with our instruments here in Monterey Bay.” when interviewed by a local news station.

There is much more behind this image than just the trip I took that night to Bixby Creek Bridge, in Big Sur. The image is a perfect example of how mesmerizing and beautiful this area is when you see it through the creative eye/lens combination.  It is that beauty and uniqueness that has kept this area conserved from urban sprawl and that also has been my immersive focus for my physical therapy after a head on collision.  Thirteen years ago they said I would never walk again, after surviving a head on collision with a construction crane.  I found out that if I did more physical therapy I could do better than doctors predicted. After working my way out of a wheelchair, and then being told I would still never walk without a brace, I started using photography as an immersive distraction to walking on sand and uneven surfaces.  This allowed my physical therapy to become “Pasion Therapy,” and that changed the game completely.  The more I focus on the beauty of our coast here in Monterey County, the more physical torture/therapy I can inflict upon my body. This immersive distraction therapy has allowed me to burn my brace at Burning Man, climb to small mountain peaks and to even run and jump.  I get all this from spending a few hours a week taking pictures near the coast.  If I did not do this I would never have seen the glowing waves or gotten the shot if I had seen them. “

These snaps are so popular that George is selling prints here. And you can follow him on Twitter @GeorgeKrieger  and here on Facebook.

Spotlight: Miles Deep In the Mariana Trench, A New Fish Species Is Discovered

There’s exciting news coming out of the Mariana Trench’s mind-boggling depths. Deep sea explorers discovered a snailfish species living more than five miles — FIVE MILES! – deep in the Mariana Trench. It has been named the Pseudoliparis swirei, and according to this National Geographic article, “…scientists suspect they are unlikely to ever find a fish that lives much deeper.”

mainasnailfishskeletal-from Quartz
This CT imagery reveals the skeleton of a snailfish that is now the deepest living species of fish with a formal name. PHOTOGRAPH BY ADAM SUMMERS, FRIDAY HARBOR LAB, UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON

But it’s the deep sea, the least-explored part of our earth, so who can imagine what else marine researchers may find. As University of Washington marine biologist Mackenzie Gerringer notes,

“We think of it as a harsh environment because it’s extreme for us, but there’s a whole group of organisms that are very happy down there,” said lead researcher Mackenzie Gerringer, a marine biologist at the University of Washington. Further research in these depths may yield even more weird discoveries. “There are a lot of surprises waiting.”

Read more about this remarkable fish species and how it lives so deep here on National Geographic, here on Quartz and here on Newsweek.

snailfish-Mariana Trench-pic via @NatGeo
This snailfish is about twice as long as a cigar, yet it can withstand more water pressure than 1,600 elephants standing on its head.
 PHOTOGRAPH BY MACKENZIE GERRINGER

Spotlight: A Golden Age of Ocean Exploration

You’re living in a golden age in deep sea exploration. There have been myriad deep-sea explorations underway this year, from NOAA’s Okeanos Explorer’s  expeditions in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans to EV/Nautilus‘ seafloor mapping and exploration in the Pacific Ocean.

And thanks to the wonders of modern technology, you can tune in and watch much of this exploration on your computer. And even stream them onto your smart TV.

NOAA’s Okeanos is doing daily live-dives in the Musicians’ Seamount through September 30. Tune in!

And also through September 30, the E/V Nautilus, a project of the Ocean Exploration Trust, is conducting a seafloor mapping expedition in the Pacific Ocean, between the Pacific Northwest and San Pedro, California, focusing on areas within the US Exclusive Economic zone. Tune in here! Click that link to also see the calendar of future EV/Nautilus explorations.

Just one thing the E/V Nautilus crew saw in an expedition earlier this years – a mysterious purple orb:

Using modern tech including microCT scanning and RNA sequencing, the E/V Nautilus team identified this as “very likely” a new species of velutinid.

Every one of these ocean exploration forays is likely to see mysterious creatures, and indeed, new species. NOAA Okeanos’ recently saw this seastar, which starfish expert

seastar-@echinoblog-Okeanos musicians 2017-09-22

Christopher Mah says is “likely a new species.”

And you can check out news and photos from their past expeditions – it’s a wealth of discovery:

10 greatest sightings, so far, from NOAA’s exploration of the deepwater Pacific

jellyfish-NOAA Okeanos-Musicians Seamount 2017

Pic o’ the week: coral garden, Pacific Ocean

It looks like a painting, but it’s a breathtaking photo of the ocean’s deepwater vibrant life.

“Several different vibrantly colored animals can be seen in this image, taken at approximately 2,240 meters (7,350 feet), including an Anthomastus mushroom coral (center), precious pink coral (right), bamboo coral (left), and feather stars (crinoids). Image courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, Mountains in the Deep: Exploring the Central Pacific Basin.” ~NOAA 

Mountains in the Deep: Exploring the Central Pacific Basin

You have one day left to join NOAA’s Okeanos crew while they explore the deep ocean – and because of the wonders of modern tech, you can join in from the comfort of your home or office. Here’s the livestream:

NOAA’s research vessel, Okeanos, has been livestreaming its dives daily, as it explores and maps the Pacific Ocean’s Central Pacific Basin. Why here? Because, NOAA says, the Central Pacific Basin encompasses some of the most remote areas on Earth and is poorly mapped.

From NOAA:

“This expedition is part of the three-year Campaign to Address the Pacific monument Science, Technology, and Ocean NEeds (CAPSTONE), a foundational science initiative to collect deepwater baseline information to support science and management decisions in and around U.S. marine protected areas in the central and western Pacific. CAPSTONE serves as an opportunity for NOAA to highlight the uniqueness and importance of these national symbols of ocean conservation.”

Spotlight: Okeanos Explores the Deep Pacific … & You Can Too

This is really cool stuff, folks!

The NOAA research vessel Okeanos is exploring the deep sea in the remote Pacific Ocean this month, and they’re livestreaming it nearly every day. You, too, can explore the deep sea; just click here to livestream at your desk any day through March 29!

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screengrab by R Brittin

In this expedition, NOAA researchers are collecting “critical baseline information about unknown and poorly known deepwater areas in the Howland and Baker Unit of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument and the Phoenix Islands Protected Area.”

The ROV dives are planned, weather permitting, most days through March 27, typically from about 8 am to 5 pm WST (March 7 – March 26, from 2 pm to 11 pm EDT).

Here are some snaps from dives earlier this week. The first three are courtesy Rachel Brittin; the rest were screen-grabbed by us.

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Check out what they’ve found on past expeditions – but a warning – this can be addictive!

NOAA Okeanos past explorations photos, videos, information.

Spotlight: Ruby Seadragon Seen Alive for First Time

“There are rubies in the sea!” and “There be dragons!” exclaimed the news.

Researchers from Scripps Institution of Oceanography announced the exciting news that they’ve spotted and filmed a live Ruby Seadragons in the wild, in waters off Australia.

“It was really quite an amazing moment,” said Scripps graduate student Josefin Stiller.

It’s the first time this surprise third species of seadragon has been seen alive in the wild.

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Ruby seadragon, Phyllopteryx dewysea; photo Zoe Della Vedova

The Ruby Seadragon was discovered last year by Scripps researchers Greg W. Rouse, Josefin Stiller, and Nerida G. Wilson :

“Last year, Scripps Oceanography marine biologists Josefin Stiller and Greg Rouse, and Nerida Wilson of the Western Australian Museum described the previously unknown Ruby Seadragon from preserved specimens misidentified as Common Seadragons—one of which was collected nearly one hundred years ago.”

In the words of the New York Times:

Since the 19th century, marine biologists had thought that only two types of these enchanting fish existed — the leafy and weedy — until they discovered a third among museum specimens in 2015: the ruby sea dragon.

Now, for the first time, scientists have observed the ruby sea dragon swimming in the wild. It is colored deep red and looks like a stretched-out sea horse with a hump like a camel and a tail it can curl. Unlike its kin, the ruby sea dragon lacks the appendages that help camouflage leafy and weedy sea dragons among the ocean floor’s kelp and sea grass.

Watch the first-ever video of a Ruby Seadragon here: http://bit.ly/2jKQLWZ
(our website technology won’t allow us to post this important video here)

The backstory of this species’ discovery is fascinating, and includes researchers building a 3D model using preserved specimens, in order to envision what they were looking for.  their paper outlining the discovery.

The surprise discovery led to more surprises. The Ruby Seadragon has a prehensile tail, like seahorses. It also is lacking the appendages that other seadragons have.

The hunt for the Ruby Seadragon was complex. Because Ruby Seadragons were believed to live at depth, Scripps partnered with Total Marine Technology, which provided ROV support in the hunt for the new seadragon species. The Western Australian Museum gave researchers access to the seadragon specimens in its collection, which proved crucial in piecing together the puzzle, since the Ruby Seadragon had only been seen dead, and those specimens had been misclassified over time as known seadragon species.

“Until last year, no one had ever suspected a third species of seadragon existed,” said Rouse, lead author of the study. “This discovery was made thanks to the great benefit of museum collections.” And, we would add, the tenacity of the researchers.

Below, the other two types of sea dragons: Weedy, or Phyllopteryx taeniolatus (lower left); Leafy, or Phycodurus eques  (lower right).