Back in 2016, this is what we saw on the ocean floor.
It was found by this little dude:
That’s the Deep Discoverer remotely operated vehicle, or ROV, that lives on the Okeanos Explorer, a NOAA research ship that studies the oceans and climate change. The ship’s expedition last year to the Mariana Islands revealed an unfortunate sight beer cans, plastic bags, and other man-made trash littering the sea floor.
This year, the ship’s gone out again. The good news: So far, none of its daily updates has included cans of processed meat.
Instead, its deepwater dives off the coast of American Samoa and various marine protected areas have revealed an amazing menagerie of ocean critters.
1. Creatures like this long-armed squid photographed off the coast of Swains Island.
2. This might look like a bit of rubbish, but trust me, it’s a barrel sponge and it’s very much alive.
It fell over though. Oh, pathos!
3. A pair of sixgill sharks out for a swim together.
4. A little oreo fish!
Unfortunately (fortunately?) they don’t have anything to do with the cookies. Their scientific genus Oreosoma means “mountain body.” They got the name because of all their little spikes.
5. But the ocean’s much stranger than a fish whose name sounds like a cookie. Check out this ridiculous crinoid.
Though it might look like the worst bouquet ever, crinoids are, in fact, animals related to starfish.
6. Or this shrimp hiding in a glass sponge.
It looks like the cover art of a science-fiction novel.
7. Ever seen an octopus egg case?
The brown sac is the outer case, while the purple dangly bit is what’s known as the chorion and hides the embryo.
8. Maybe it’ll grow up to look like this magnificent specimen.
The rare Grimpoteuthis, also known as the Dumbo octopus, uses the flaps on the side of it’s head to swim through the water.
9. Or check out this … what is this? A sea cucumber? Jerry, is this a sea cucumber?
Jerry says it is and belongs to the Psychropotes genus. Thanks, Jerry!
10. Not all sea cucumbers look like God’s rough drafts though. Check out this elegant swimmer.
This little one will likely spend it’s entire life swimming around, catching food from the currents.
11. Scientists couldn’t decide whether these crabs were fighting or flirting.
Spotted nearly 2,500 feet below the surface, this hand-holding could be either premating behavior or aggression.
12. This shrimp was definitely guilty of murder though. It was a murdering shrimp. The murdershrimp.
It totally caught and ate a fish on camera. Listen man, I don’t want any trouble. You can have that fish; just leave me and my family alone.
13. Let’s leave the murdershrimp behind and focus on something a bit more wholesome, like this cute little jellyfish.
Scientists spotted this little Narcomedusae jelly about 1,800 feet down.
14. OK, enough of the cute.Time for monsters again. Meet the chimaera.
Chimaeras, also known as ghost fish, are related to sharks and live on the deep ocean floor. This one was found more than a mile under the surface.
15. Believe it or not, that wasn’t the weirdest looking fish they found. You’ve really got to see this armored searobin in motion.
It’s like a fish trying to cosplay as a Star Wars A-wing.
The ocean is full of such amazing life. But here’s the thing: The trash is still out there too.
Those beer cans and Spam containers haven’t gone away. Nobody’s going along the Mariana trench with a recycling bag. And there are more subtle ways our waste affects the ocean as well. A study published in February 2017, for instance, found man-made chemicals invading the bodies of even the deepest ocean fauna.
These are (still) the kinds of images people should see. The ocean is an amazing place. Let’s keep it that way.
(Because I seriously don’t want that murdershrimp coming after me.)