Descending into the deep ocean of Aldabra – the world’s second-largest coral atoll – we entered an alien world akin to the lunar landscape of the moon.
Peering through the fish-bowl pressure hull of the submersible, I was humbled to be one of the first people to witness this unique environment. The scoured, undulating rock was in stark contrast to the bustling, shallow coral reefs I am more familiar with. Certainly, coral reefs have received a great deal of attention recently, however, we arguably know more about the moon than we do about the deep ocean.
Hoping to change that outlook is an interdisciplinary team of scientists, journalists and sub-sea engineers, who I am working with as part of the Nekton’s First Descent Mission in Seychelles. We are on the first of a series of expeditions, running from 2019 to 2022 in the Indian Ocean – one of the least researched and least protected of our ocean. With 2.5 billion people living in the surrounding nations, how this ocean changes in the coming decade will profoundly affect their lives and livelihoods.
Funding for scientific research is becoming increasingly difficult to secure, and despite many educational and awareness campaigns, gaining much-needed investment for the research and protection of our global ocean remains a challenge. One solution is to coordinate our efforts for the greatest impact, as the interconnected nature of our ocean means management and safeguarding must be a collective responsibility.
As part of the Nekton Mission, we are pioneering a collaborative approach. We are working on this ambitious project with over 40 global partners and a further dozen partners from the Seychelles, combining scientific research, capacity development, ocean management and governance with public engagement activities to achieve the greatest coordinated impact.
Deep ocean research and exploration is usually the domain of government-backed initiatives, offshore energy companies or billionaires, not a small charity from Oxford. But despite its size, Nekton has brought together partners from the public, private and charitable sector to explore the ocean depths of the Seychelles archipelago.
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