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Deep sea ‘garden’ explored

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Voyage of discovery: a submersible breaks the surface after a dive at Argus Banks (Photograph by Nekton and the XL Catlin Deep Ocean Survey)

A deep sea forest teeming with life has been explored for the first time by scientists inside submersible craft off the shores of Bermuda.

Divers from the Nekton Foundation described the find, on the unexplored Argus Seamount off Bermuda, as a “new biological hotspot”.

Some of the discoveries came as a surprise to Bermudian scientists taking part, according to Nekton.

The initiative, part of the XL Catlin Deep Ocean Survey, uncovered a rich algal forest, according to Oxford University scientist Alex Rogers.

The algae creates “an abundance of healthy mesophotic corals”, Professor Rogers said — growths that normally occur at depth of 30 to 40 metres, but which can extend down to 150m. Mesophotic organisms dwell in dim-lit areas of the sea.

Known to locals as Argus Banks, the popular fishing spot lies roughly 30 miles to the island’s southwest.

The deepwater peak is among more than 100,000 worldwide — but fewer than 40 have been biologically sampled in detail.

Its slopes were found to have a “garden of twisted wire corals and hydrocorals hiding fast-moving sea urchins, green moray eels, yellow hermit crabs and a yet to be identified species of small pink and yellow fish”, Nekton said.

The survey continues until August 14.

Beneath the waves: a submersible explores Argus Seamount (Photograph by Nekton and the XL Catlin Deep Ocean Survey)
Secrets of the deep: the scientists look at organisms on the ocean bed (Photograph by Nekton and the XL Catlin Deep Ocean Survey)