Ocean Opportunity, a Rhode Island based not for profit organization, announces the successful return from an expedition to explore and document the Tongue of the Ocean (TOTO) to depths in excess of 400 feet. The expedition took place from November 12 through 22, 2010.
The deep scientific diving team (including Jeff Godfrey of UConn and Michael Lombardi of Ocean Opportunity) used advanced manned diving techniques to allow direct hands-on access to the deep mesophotic coral reef environment. The study site provides a vertical wall and direct physical linkage from the shallows to well within the aphotic zone. The team conducted six dives deeper than 300 feet -with two deeper than 400 feet. Exploration diver Jeff Godfrey described the dives as “being like diving the Grand Canyon“.
Lombardi commented “data gathered throughout the expedition will be analyzed to evaluate the in-water biomechanics and efficiency of humans working within the mesophotic zone (200-500 fsw) in remote locations. This will have significant implications in the scientific diving community“.
More than 500 high resolution images were taken of this environment. Scientific data acquired from these images will be analyzed to better understand the biodiversity, natural history and transitional function of the deep reefs as a gateway from the shallow coral reef to the abyss. Imagery is also being organized for public display.
This project is supported by the National Geographic Society/Waitt Grants Program, Ocean Opportunity Inc., the University of Connecticut, Shearwater Research, Molecular Products, Small Hope Bay Lodge Hugyfot and several individual donors. The team also carried Explorers Ckub Flag #172 on the expedition. Work will continue this spring.