Deep Ocean: Lights in the Abyss (2016)

Curious minds want to know... documentary/Biographies movie collection.

Moderator: Maskath3

Post Reply

Deep Ocean: Lights in the Abyss (2016)

Post by bunniefuu »

These images, taken less than five
years ago, were the first ever recorded

of that almost mythical inhabitant
of the deep sea, the giant squid.

Its body is over twice
the height of a man,

its tentacles,
four times that length.

No one before had seen it
alive in its natural habitat.

Filming it was a historic triumph.

Now the scientists and cameramen
who captured these amazing pictures,

have teamed up once again to explore still
further the least known part of our planet.

They're armed with the latest in
deep sea technology, and a new,

highly sensitive camera, that can
record pictures in near total darkness.

The team is heading for a deep sea
gorge off the coast of California,

and this time they hope to reveal
another of the ocean's astonishments,

creatures that glow in the deep.

It's so rich, it's so bright,
so thick, so dense,

it's so many different
kinds of luminous displays.

And with them, the bizarre
animals that prey on them.

This is a journey to the
Earth's darkest frontier,

to try and unravel some of the secrets
of these extraordinary living lights.


On the west coast of California, 200
kilometers south of San Francisco,

lies Monterey Bay, world famous for
the richness of its marine life.

Cold Pacific currents bring an
abundance of nutrients into the bay,

which support great
numbers of sea mammals.



And drifting among the floating kelp, sea
otters, floating leisurely on their backs,

cracking open shellfish
on their stomachs.

Beneath the surface of the sea,
lies the largest underwater canyon

off the coast of North America,
over 3000 meters deep,

and rivaling in size
the Grand Canyon.

The jagged walls of the Monterey
Canyon drop down steeply

and create a unique
underwater landscape.

The cold, sheltered waters provide
a home for many deep sea animals,

and new species are still
continually being discovered.

Between 200 and a thousand meters deep,
light gradually diminishes into blackness.

This is the twilight zone,
where little sunlight penetrates.

Many of the creatures that live
here produce their own light.

The expedition plans to dive down into
this zone, guided by Dr. Bruce Robison,

who's worked in Monterey
bay for many years,

and is a world expert
on deep sea animals.

We have been studying
this place for 25 years.

And yet we still find new animals.
It is like treasure hunting,

and you never know the
nature of the treasure.

Robison himself has made many discoveries
in Monterey Bay over the years,

but he knows well that exploration
here has only just g*n,

and all kinds of
astonishments may await.

Now the team will deploy his specially
designed research submersible

for their first exploratory dive.

It's un-manned, but it carries a camera that
sends pictures to the surface by a cable.

Here we go.

A pair of inquisitive seals come
to check out the strange machine.

It slowly descends
into deeper waters.

200 meters.

it's entered the twilight zone.

So little light from the
surface reaches these depths,

that to our eyes it's
virtually pitch black.

It's time to turn
on the sub's lights.

What is that?

It's a strange, ribbon-like worm.

We call 'em wiggle worms, and they
are, they are really fun to watch

because they go through
all of these contortions

and they make spirals,
and circles, and loops.

Well that's, they seem never
to tie themselves into a knot

that they can't get out of.

And then, another strange creature.

It's a salp.

The salp is in fact not one individual,
but a chain of nearly 50 linked together.

Sea salps are jelly-like
filter feeders

that suck water in through their tubular
mouths, and filter out tiny food particles.

Something likes to...
- DJ let's stop on that!

Robison has spotted something
else in the darkness.

It's a kind of comb
jelly called Beroe.

Rows of tiny b*ating hairs run
the entire length of its body.

It's a magical sight,
but it's not bioluminescence.

The shimmer is merely reflected from
the light coming from the submersible.

A small squid appears
in the headlights.

It hangs in the water, waiting for prey
to get caught on its long tentacles.

And it has a remarkably large
eye for such a small animal.

Many creatures here have huge eyes.
They need to be able to follow prey,

or pick out the shape of a
predator in the near-darkness,

and there are plenty
of those around.

In the open ocean,
there is no place to hide.

The submersible is now halfway
into the twilight zone.

600 meters.

They're hoping to see one
still little known creature

that lives at this
particular depth.

And here it is.
A fish called the barreleye.

Its extraordinary head,
is encased in a transparent dome

so that you can look right inside.

Its eyes within their transparent
shield, are enormous and point upwards.

Robison first encountered this
bizarre animal over a decade ago.

At this point we were very,
very excited,

because no one had ever seen
one of these alive, before,

only specimens that had
been caught in nets.

And as we watched it, we realized
that it looked very different

than all the specimens that
had been collected by nets.

This, transparent dome, over the
eyes, had never been seen before.

When you catch these in the nets,
that's all scraped off.

It was an extraordinary discovery, and
the strange fish with the see-through head

would make the headlines.

While the transparent shield
was thought to protect the eyes,

it was a puzzle as to how the fish could
catch prey with its forward-facing mouth

if it can't see what
it's feeding on.

It was a mystery that Robison
would also solve some years later.

Many of the creatures in the deep, like
the barreleye fish, defy imagination.

And here's another,
the Black Sea Devil.

It's a kind of angler fish,
with a bony rod

and a luminous lure hanging from
it perched on the top of its head.

Every dive down to these
depths brings new discoveries.

Look at the black fish!
- Go, where? - Right there!

It's an excellent Dragon. See...

It's a deep sea dragonfish.

I thought that was... - It's makes
red luminescence. - Really? - Yeah yeah!

The red spot just below the eye is a
photophore, a light emitting organ.

Even Robison has never
seen it in action before.

Looks better to me.
- Good lets do it.

The sub has a special suction device
with which they might catch it.

But it's not easy.

Robison wants to bring it to the
surface, so that he can study it closely.

Right in there! - You got it,
got it! - All right! - All right.

Now he'll have to act quickly.
With the enormous pressure change,

the fish may not be able to
produce its light for long.

The deep sea dragon is only
10 centimeters in length,

but Robison is keen to find out how
its light producing organ works.

I think it's enough water in there,
unless you feel like you want more.

- Okay.

To see the photophore in action, they'll
need some highly specialized equipment.

The red light emitted by
the photophore is too weak

to register on an ordinary camera,
but the team has developed one

that is 600 times more sensitive.

Tested outside on a clear night, it produces
an astonishingly sharp image of the stars,

so it should be able to detect the light
produced by bioluminescent animals.

The team have set up a filming
t*nk in a dark room with water

that's kept at the same
temperature as the deep ocean.

With any luck, the dragonfish should behave
relatively naturally in these conditions.

Under normal lights, the fascinating
creature lives up to its name.

It looks truly fearsome.

And the two photophores are
clearly visible under each eye.

But in the dark,
the photophores light up.

They glow in unison,
one red and the other blue.

And then, a surprise.

This is something that no
one has ever seen before.

That's unexpected,
and it's interesting.

It's a spectacular display.
But what is its function?

It could be to frighten off
a predator, but no one knows.

We may not find the
answer for many years yet.

Bioluminescence isn't
limited to the ocean.

It's found in creatures on land,
even in the air.

Fireflies flash their
lights to attract a mate.

Some woodland fungi
glow bright green,

attracting insects,
maybe to distribute their spores.

And at certain times of the year,
beetle larvae emerge from termite mounds

and illuminate them
like Christmas trees.

But in the deep ocean,
90% of the creatures produce light,

and we still know very
little about why they do so.

The only way to find them in the pitch
black is to shine our own lights on them.

But when we do that, it's impossible
to see the much weaker living lights

that the animals
themselves produce.

So studying the phenomenon
is extremely difficult.

The mysteries are how they use it,

what are they saying to
each other with that light?

The problem was that we never had
a camera that we could take down

and use to record bioluminescence, and
that's why it was so important for me

to go down and see
it with my own eyes.

Now Robison and his team have an
opportunity to use the latest technology

to tackle the problem.

They'll be working from the Alucia,
the same research vessel

that helped the film team
find the giant squid.

Hi I'm Taylor. - Mark, pleased
to meet you. - I've heard about you...

The high-sensitivity camera system
that took two years to develop

will now be really tested.

The crew carry out last minute checks
on the submersible before its dive

into the Monterey submarine canyon.

At the kind of depths at which they'll be
operating, every precaution has to be taken.

The camera is carefully installed on a mount
attached to the outside of the submersible.

At last everything is in
place and they're ready to go.

I'm excited like a boy, I...
I now I'm gonna have a lot of fun.

Robison has spent a good part of his
career exploring the ocean depths,

but he still gets
excited before each dive.

- Hi! - Thank you!

After his submersible, the Nadir,
has been lowered into the water,

a second sub, the Deep Rover,
is also launched.

Do I copy?
- Yes. - Good. - Okay, here we go.

We're flooded.

And the dive begins. Their aim is
to descend to a depth of 600 meters

into the middle of
the twilight zone.

Soon the light levels start to fall,
and they enter a dark, blue world.

Control control, the Nadir's
at 200 meters, descending over.

Something off the front. - Yeah, there's
quite a long one there, isn't it? - Yes.

This may look like
a piece of string,

but in fact it's a huge colony of
living creatures linked together.

They're called siphonophores,
and are relatives of the jellyfish.

Siphonophores are very
unusual creatures.

They are a colony of individuals
all connected to one another.

We have found individuals
that were 40 meters long,

longer than a blue whale,
the longest creature on Earth.

The individuals of the front contract
and expel water simultaneously,

so slowly moving the colony
forward by jet propulsion.

The rest of the chain extend hair-like
tentacles to catch passing prey.

There may be hundreds, if not thousands
of individuals in a single chain.

Each one performs a
particular function

and occupies a particular
place within the colony,

much like the organs in our bodies.
This super-colony works as a team.

But how individuals
communicate with each other,

and coordinate their
movements is still a mystery.

There's Colobonema.

Very, very pretty medusa.

Colobonema is a small jellyfish
just five centimeters long,

but it's a strong swimmer, and as the sub
gets closer, it puts on a turn of speed.

See, he just dropped his tentacles.

Cool, you got it!

The small jelly sheds
his tentacles on purpose.

It's a ploy to confuse predators.

While our eyes follow
the discarded appendages,

Colobonema makes its escape.

Control control, Nadir passing
570 meters, descending over.

The sub is nearing
the 600 meter mark.

Oop, stop Andy!
- Over. - See that... - Yeah, yeah.

Go slowly.

That's an owlfish.

It seems to be scared of
the subs bright lights.

So the crew decide
to switch them off.

They turn on a much weaker light,
adjust the sensitivity of the camera,

and the fish comes into view again.
- Nice.

Like many deep sea creatures,
the owlfish has huge eyes,

which can detect the
faintest trace of light,

including the living
light of its prey.

The fish uses the very
minimum of energy,

and simply hangs in the water,
waiting for prey to swim by.

Having a camera with this
sensitivity is very exciting,

because of the things it may reveal,
things that we don't even know are here,

that may appear for the first time. Again,
because we can work with very low light.

And here's a, here's...

It's the Beroe comb jelly again.

In the submersible's headlights,
it shimmers with refracted colors.

But what would it look like
if the lights were off?


In the dark, Beroe produces the most
astonishing intricate pattern of light,

all along its body.
This is bioluminescence.

Look at that! This here!

Yeah! - That's a big one.
- Holy cow! What a beauty!

The striking red torpedo
is a Periphylla jellyfish.

It's a voracious hunter that uses
stiff tentacles to catch its prey.

But it also has another
trick up its sleeve.

That's a very luminescent animal,
when it is stimulated.

So as not to scare it,
they switch to a red light,

which the jelly can't detect.

And then it starts a totally
different performance.

It starts to eject the
tiny blue particles.

They drift away, leaving a
trail of twinkling blue lights.

What is going on?

No, stay away, stay away,
stay away, stay away!

The crew try to keep away from
the jelly but the currents

created by the submersible
have disturbed it.

It's response is to
eject its living lights.

It seems that if threatened,
Periphylla tries to trick a predator

into following the glowing trail, and
so enable the jelly itself to escape.

There's a Tomopterid worm.
- Yes.

The transparent worm seems to crawl
through the water with its bristly legs.

But when disturbed it also
ejects glowing lights.

Many other bioluminescent
creatures make an appearance,

and the crew are able to capture
their displays with the new camera.

Living in this twilight zone depth,

which is very challenging for the
animals that choose to live here,

because there are no rocks or trees or
holes in the ground where animals can hide.

It's a truly three-dimensional
space without boundaries or borders.

Light is an extremely important
way that the animals deal

with the challenges of living here.

The team have been underwater
for nearly eight hours.

It's time to come
up to the surface.

It's two days into the expedition and
they're awaiting the arrival of a visitor.

Dr. Edith Widder is a world
expert on bioluminescence.

Don't step on that! - Yep, thank you!
- Well done, how are you? - Good.

She's worked with Robison
many times over the years.

You believe this? - Yes.
- Anyway. - Yeah? - I'm glad you're here.

I'm glad you...
- I need all the help I can get! - Yeah?

Widder was part of the giant
squid expedition in 2012.

She had developed an electric
jellyfish that emitted flashing lights

similar to that used
by deep sea creatures.

That had helped the team
to attract a giant squid

so that they could film it
alive for the very first time.

Now Widder has brought
along some new gadgets

that she's developed
specially for this expedition.

This is one of them.
She calls it a a Splat Screen.

If deep sea creatures
unknowingly swim into it,

she thinks they'll
produce bioluminescence,

and their special camera
should then be able to film it.

I think it's gonna be an incredible dive. I
can't wait to try out the new Splat Screen,

and so, to be able to see now what
this camera's gonna be able to see,

because in those early days I
didn't know what I was seeing,

and over time I've gotten so I
can identify a lot of the animals

by the types of flashes they produce. But I
think that's gonna be even easier to do now

with this camera system.

Widder will work from the second
submersible, the Deep Rover.

And Robison gets ready to
head down in the Nadir again.

On this dive they're planning to
descend right to the ocean floor.

Control Rover, my depth,
770 meters, on bottom, over.

After an hour, they have made it.

The sea floor is
thronged with fish.

Nutrients falling to the bottom,
and accumulating there,

attract a great variety of animals.

This, small little sea pen, you see it?
- Yeah that's, that's a Corimya.

Sea pens are coral-like creatures that
anchor themselves to the sea floor.

They prefer deep waters, where they're less
likely to be uprooted by ocean currents.

But they're not safe from the
robotic arm of the submersible.

And when touched, the glow.

This is a different kind of sea pen.
It produces a blue, pulsating light.

Widder is keen to try out
the new Splat Screen to see

if that will stimulate animals to
glow that they might otherwise miss.

All right, are you ready for the screen?
- Yep.

Okay, all lights off.
- All lights off.

As their eyes adjust to the darkness,
they see the first faint glow.

It's a jellyfish,
and as it comes closer

Widder is able to identify it.

That's a jelly. - I think
that's Atolla. Yeah it is, it's Atolla.

And the ultra-sensitive camera is able
to record its complex light display.

As it touches the screen, it produces
a spectacular strobing of blue light.

Widder suspects that the function of this
display isn't to scare off the enemy,

it may convey another message.

Now she brings her electric
jellyfish into action.

It's programmed to emit the
same pattern of light as Atolla.

A low light camera reveals that the
blue flashes quickly attract large fish.

And a gigantic deep sea predator.

A Pacific sleeper shark,
nearly three meters long.

It's not a thr*at to the jelly, it
seems to be preying on the smaller fish,

that are in fact the
jelly's real enemies.

So the jelly's flashing lights
may be acting as a call for help,

a kind of living burglar alarm.

It has this remarkable ability to
produce this pinwheel of light,

and so clearly,
if it was a scream for help,

then you would think that that pattern
should be very attractive to large predators.

It's an intriguing idea.

In the meantime, Bruce Robison is in the
Nadir and making his own discoveries.

Rover Nadir, over. - Stop Andy.
- Over. - See that... - Yeah, yeah.

This is a viper fish, a fearsome
predator, and it too creates light.

You see those spots along his belly, - Yeah.
- Those are bioluminescence organs.

Rows of small photophores run
along the length of its underbelly,

and produce blue light.

From below, the fish lights
up like an airport runway.

Interestingly, many deep sea creatures
generate light on their undersides.

Why should this be so?

It seems that the lights may actually
help to camouflage the animals

from predators
lurking beneath them.

One creature that uses its lights
to this effect is the firefly squid.

Hundreds of tiny photophores
illuminate their bodies.

Why don't these bright
lights attract predators?

A small amount of light from the surface
filters down into the twilight zone,

so from below, a black silhouette
would be clearly visible,

and make an easy target
for deep sea hunters.

A predator from down below,
looking for a meal,

might see the body of an animal,

silhouetted against the
lighted waters above,

and would use that silhouette as
a guide to strike and feed on.

But the squid's lights prevent
that by breaking up its silhouette.

Through a thick layer of water this
effect is even more pronounced.

And by controlling the intensity of
its own light, to match the background,

the animal blends
into its surroundings.

So contradictory though it may
sound, light in fact conceals.

Many animals who live in
this part of the ocean

eliminate that thr*at by producing
light along their bellies

and erasing their shadow so
that they cannot be seen.

But there is one predator that's not
deceived by this trick, the barreleye.

It has evolved its own
special hunting technique.

It hangs almost motionless in the water,
with its large eyes directed upwards,

searching for the faint
silhouettes of prey overhead.

The eyes are green,
because they contain a pigment

that screens out bioluminescence
that other animals use to hide with.

So it's not fooled by the
counter-illumination of that bioluminescence.

Although no one has ever
seen how the barreleye hunts,

Robison has studied the animal
closely, and come up with a theory.

It feeds on small krill
and other plankton.

Some prey try to hide by
using bioluminescence.

But seen through the eyes of the
barreleye, the deception does not work.

The hunter can
clearly see its prey.

The barreleye approaches
stealthily from below,

and as it rises to the level of
its prey, it rotates it's eyes.

Eternal darkness has caused
creatures that live here

to evolve all kinds of
shapes and strategies

that are utterly different
from those we use ourselves,

and one of the key elements is
the ability to create light.

They just seem strange to us,
because we are so accustomed

to living in a very
different world.

Some are virtually blind, and rely
on other senses to catch their food.

While others have
particularly large eyes

that enable them to see
in the dimmest of light.

They've all evolved their own
ways of dealing with the darkness,

but most of them use bioluminescence
in some way or other.

So perhaps it's not surprising,
that nature's greatest light show

happens in the one place where
there is continuous darkness.

Control control Rover,
passing 300 meters, descending.

Deep Rover is slowly heading upwards,
with the splat screen still extended.

It lights up with the glow of small creatures
that come into contact with the net.

By freezing the image from the camera, it's
possible to identify some of the animals

that are creating the light.

These are copepods, small crustaceans
just a few millimeters long.

When threatened, they can
discharge a bioluminescent liquid.

They're one of the most
abundant creatures in the ocean,

and the main source
of food for many fish.

These small creatures may
provide a clue to understanding

why bioluminescence is so
widespread in the deep ocean.

It's long been a mystery as to how
deep sea animals produce light,

but science is now beginning
to find some of the answers.

Most deep sea animals produce bioluminescence
with a molecule called coelenterazine.

When this reacts with certain enzymes
in their bodies, it produces light.

So bioluminescence
may seem like magic,

but in fact is the result of a
straight-forward chemical reaction.

But there is nonetheless,
one mystery.

Most deep sea animals themselves can not
produce this light emitting substance,

so where does it come from?

A Japanese researcher, Yuichi Oba,
may have found the answer.

Oba has been studying deep sea
copepods, and he's discovered

that one particular species is able to
make coelenterazine within its body.

It's called Metridia pacifica.

We still don't know how
many others can do the same,

but it's a clue as to where the
luminous molecule could have come from.

But how is it that the same molecule is
also found in many other deep sea creatures?

Well, it appears that it
spread through the food chain.

Copepods are the main source of food
for many shrimps and small fish,

so the coelenterazine
molecule will be transferred

into the bodies of their predators.

The shrimp in turn may pass on
the molecule to their predators,

squid and larger fish, which in turn
are eaten by even larger hunters.

So the light emitting
molecule could have spread

from prey to predator and so through
the whole community of deep sea animals.

It's an extraordinary thought,
that the living light

produced by some of the
smallest creatures in the sea,

could be the basis for the
incredible light shows in the ocean.

The precise function of
bioluminescence may vary.

Some use it to
intimidate their enemies.

Others to hide from predators
or to call for help.

But the meaning of many of their
messages still remains a mystery.

As the expedition draws to a close,

the team prepare for one last dive to
watch a particularly spectacular event.

It happens every night as the
sun drops below the horizon.

It's a time when vast numbers of deep
sea creatures rise towards the surface.

The team are hoping to film the spectacle
and the light show that goes with it,

and to do that properly they
will deploy both submersibles.

When we get up to 200 meters or
maybe 100, we should coordinate

and if there is a thick
layer of luminescence,

we should try to sh**t each
other as we drive through it.

The submersibles are launched
while there's still light.

As they descend deeper, and night falls,
they once more enter the world of darkness.

And it's not long before they're
traveling through a large swarm of krill.

Not bad, just going up.

The small crustaceans are on their
daily migration up to the surface,

where they will feed on plankton.

Others have also been hiding in
deep waters to avoid predators.

Now there's a mass migration of
animals up towards the surface,

where food is more abundant.

But this vast migration
attracts some bigger hunters.

It's an electric torpedo ray.

They usually live down near the bottom,
but at night it comes up to feed.

It's 5:30 p.m.,
and the sun has set.

The submersibles are in position.

Control control, the Nadia's
at 200 meters with Rover, over.

The submersibles are hanging
motionless at a depth of 200 meters,

but to really see what they've come for,
they need to turn off all the lights.

Let's give it a try.

The first glowing lights appear,

and the show begins.

With every passing minute,
the firework display gets bigger.

The subs are now surrounded
by light on all sides.

Yeah! Yeah!

Pretty good, pretty good.
- Yeah.

Wave after wave of living
lights well up from the deep.

So, copepods, and krill,
there's na-nomia,

there's a suggestive.

Millions of glowing marine
creatures continue to appear,

and amongst them could well be other strange
life forms that we've not yet encountered.

The underwater night sky is now
illuminated by hundreds of sh**ting stars.

The show continues
for over two hours,

and when they come back up to the
surface, the scientists are ecstatic.

Look at that!
- Yeah! - It is the Milky Way!

But it's also scientifically
very interesting

that you can actually
see the different colors.

But scientists have yet to discover the
meaning of many of these living lights,

and how and why they are produced.

Most of the animals in this vast,
vast volume make light,

and that much of it we still don't
understand what it's used for.

That's a huge mystery.
- We have only g*n to explore.

And, we continue to find new discoveries
every time we go into the ocean,

so yes, we've only g*n to
find out what's down there,

to learn how these pieces
of a gigantic puzzle

fit together and
work as an ecosystem.

Yes, we're just getting started.

The deep oceans and their
mysterious light producing creatures

have long been out of our reach.
Now, with the help of new technology

and the latest research, we're beginning
to unravel some of their secrets.

But many mysteries remain, and we're
still a long way off from understanding

just what makes these marvelous
living lights glow in the abyss.
Post Reply