The Deep Down Under research expedition finished in Cairns, Australia after a successful voyage to the Queensland Plateau in the Coral Sea. The expedition aimed to investigate relict fauna, or animals that were previously thought to be extinct, but have persisted almost unchanged on the deep reef slopes since the late Mesozoic (>65 MYA), such as sponges, brachiopods, echinoderms and Nautilus cephalopods. The expedition used a Cherokee Remote Operated Vehicle (ROV) from the Centre for Marine Environmental Sciences (marum) in Bremen, Germany, to investigate deep-sea life down to about 800 metres depth.
Prior to the expedition departure from Townsville on 30 November 2009, I met with the science team and provided them with all the available deep-sea maps of the Coral Sea. The maps were used to plan ROV dives and transects down the sides of the Coral Sea reefs.
Osprey Reef became the main focus area and the detailed 3D maps developed during the earlier Deep Osprey Reef mapping project (internal link here) proved very useful to the expedition. The post-cruise analysis will involved studying the fauna specimens and rocks collected by the ROV, and analysing the high-quality underwater vision for marine life and habitat patterns.