the deep


In 1968, Howard Sanders, a young scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, published a paradigm-shifting paper on deep-sea biology. With careful, analytical study and a heavy weight of data Sanders finally killed the prevailing theory of the depauperate, species-poor deep sea, and showed incontrovertibly that the small, mud-dwelling species – mainly polychaete worms and crustaceans – are actually more diverse in the deep than in temperate or even tropical shallow-water areas. These data, generated from what was essentially the first comprehensive but mundane sampling program, astounded scientists, and even today we speak of “before or after” the Sanders study.

William Beebe was the first man to descend into the deep sea in the early 1930s, using a highly primitive steel sphere equipped with two fused-quartz viewing ports, and open trays of soda lime to keep carbon-dioxide levels low. But without a camera or any means to take samples, Beebe was forced to recount from memory and his notes the organisms that he observed. The fantastical bioluminescent displays he reported seeing were considered with scepticism by most scientists at the time.

more from the TLS here.