A New World Underwater

For centuries, most of the Earth’s oceans have remained a mystery.
Now, just as NASA has studied the Moon and Mars, with rovers and remote-controlled vehicles, researchers are using similar technology to map the world’s oceans.

SuBastian is a remote-controlled, underwater robot designed by the Schmidt Ocean Institute for deep sea research. It’s capable of exploring depths up to 4500 meters — almost 3 miles beneath the ocean surface.
The robot is equipped with arms that can be manipulated seven different ways, along with removable trays that can be loaded with experiments designed by the scientists.

SuBastian can collect samples, recover lost equipment, and collect chemical and thermal data. Armed with extensive cameras and sensors, this robot can live-stream underwater dives across the world while researchers compile its data into 3D-maps of the ocean floor– all at the same time.

This powerful combination of imagery and information has led to some amazing discoveries beneath the sea. In 2020, an enormous, detached coral reef was identified inside the Australian Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Taller than the Empire State Building, this ancient reef is the first to be discovered in 120 years.

SuBastian was also responsible for detecting the longest, underwater animal ever recorded. The 150-foot long siphonophore Apolemia is a gelatinous string of zooids that clone themselves thousands of times into specialized bodies that work together as one entity.

Even more discoveries shone light on new invertebrates, sea sponges, a long-tailed sea cucumber, mollusks, barnacle and squat lobster species as well as a bioluminescent octopus squid.

Thanks to these new technologies we are seeing new ocean-scapes and revealing diverse life forms and eco-systems that share our planet. The images, data and samples collected, will have important implications for the sustainability and protection of these underwater ecosystems, and others, worldwide.