Embarking on an Oceanic Odyssey

Picture credits: Alex Ingle and Schmidt Ocean Institute

Hello, fellow ocean enthusiasts! Today, we are excited to share a remarkable story of deep-sea exploration and scientific discovery aboard the R/V Falkor (too), courtesy of our esteemed postdoctoral researcher, Germán Zapata Hernández.

 Picture credits: Alex Ingle and Schmith Ocean Institute

Joining forces with the Schmidt Ocean Institute, Germán embarked on an expedition led by Dr. Javier Sellanes from Universidad Católica del Norte, Chile. Their mission? To map the unexplored areas of the South Pacific off the coast of Chile, exploring selected seamounts along the Nazca, Salas & Gomez and Juan Fernández Ranges and studying their biodiversity.

The air was filled with anticipation from the moment Germán set foot on the vessel. After completing extensive safety training in Chile, he met up with the international team in Valparaiso, prepared to begin their journey of exploration.

 Picture credits: Alex Ingle and Schmith Ocean Institute

On January 6, 2024, their odyssey began with two days of essential briefings and preparations. On January 8, they set sail from Valparaiso, heading towards the Nazca ridge, equipped with state-of-the-art technology and an insatiable curiosity.

The team set out on an expedition into the abyss with the help of the powerful remotely operated vehicle (ROV) called ‘SuBastian’, capable of reaching depths of up to 4,000 meters. Germán conducted a thorough research study, collecting seawater, sediments, and a range of deep-sea organisms, from micro to macroscopic scale.

These valuable samples will help to understand the complex structure and function of deep-sea ecosystems, revealing their dynamics and providing insights into the wonders of the ocean’s depths.

During the demanding work schedule, which usually started at 8 am and often lasted until 1 or 2 am, a strong sense of camaraderie developed among the scientists and crew members. Evenings were filled with laughter and lively conversation, fostering a deep sense of community.

On January 15th, in the midst of the ongoing exploration, Germán celebrated his 38th birthday at sea, and the ship’s chefs prepared a magnificent cake to mark the occasion.

As the expedition came to an end, the team made a memorable stop at Robinson Crusoe Island. Enjoying the stunning scenery, they immersed themselves in recreational diving, exploring the rich marine life that thrives in these pristine waters.

During their adventure, they enjoyed the island’s culinary delights, including the renowned and unforgettable ’empanadas de cangrejo dorado’ (golden crab Chaceon chilensis) and the flavorful ‘Vidriola’ (yellowtail amberjack Seriola lalandi), accompanied by the iconic ‘pisco sour’ aperitif. These culinary experiences added a delicious touch to their exploration!

 Picture credits: Alex Ingle and Schmith Ocean Institute

After five weeks of intense exploration, the team returned to Valparaiso, filled with excitement and satisfaction. Watch here below for a captivating video showcasing the beauty and biodiversity of the oceanic depths and offering a glimpse into the groundbreaking discoveries made during the cruise. These discoveries include approximately 100 species that are new to science, a testament to the significance and impact of this research effort.

Join us in celebrating Germán’s incredible journey and the spirit of exploration that drives us to push the boundaries of knowledge beneath the waves. Stay tuned for more updates from our ongoing adventures in the great blue unknown!