When Chilean scientist Osvaldo Olva led an expedition 8,000 meters under the sea where no human had ever been, his team discovered microscopic creatures that raise more questions than answers. The submarine expedition entered the dove in January. Atacama TrenchBorn of the confluence of two tectonic plates in the eastern Pacific.
“We took humans to a ditch where no one else was before,” Allova, director of the University of Conception’s Millennium Institute of Oceanography, told AFP.
He was joined by American explorer Victor Veskov and Millennium Assistant Director Robin Escribano on a 12-week journey in a 3,650-mile trench off Chile’s northern coast that stretches as far as Ecuador.
By the time the expedition, called the Atacama Huddle, reached a depth of 100 meters, it was already in pitch black darkness, and crew members were limited in their ability to detect the submarine’s powerful LED light.
Further below the darkness, there are prominent examples of deep marine life.
“We looked at the geological structure and there we saw a kind of jelly-like holothurian or translucent sea cucumber, which we didn’t record and probably had new breeds,” Alva said.
“We also discovered bacterial communities that had fibers that we didn’t even know existed in the Atacama Trench and that eat chemical and inorganic compounds,” he said. “This raises a number of questions: what are those compounds? What kind of bacteria are they? We have no idea, we’ll have to go back there.”
The campaign also found a variety of amphipods, a type of crustacean closely related to prawns, which were cleaning crustaceans, segmented insects and translucent fish. They were discovered in the same place in 2018 in a drone mission.
“Incredibly ambitious project”
The Atacama Trench – also known as the Peruvian Trench – is where the delicate and South American tectonic plates meet. This is an area that has caused many earthquakes and tsunamis.
“We’re going to put three sensors on the South American plate and two on the Nazca plate to see how bad the ocean floor is,” Alva said.
For the moment, “these types of sensors are only available on Earth.”
These devices will allow scientists to observe where energy is being generated in areas where earthquakes have not occurred, thus helping to predict where the next earthquake will occur.
“This is an incredibly ambitious project,” Olva added.
The sensors will be installed during the second half of this year.
“There is a lot of interest from the international community to install more sensors in the region to study all the processes involved in the collision of these two plates.”