California Academy of Sciences
This Team Discovers 14 New Species An Hour, But They Have an Enemy!
You’ve heard that we know more about space than we do the deep ocean. But did you know it’s so unexplored that scientists discover new species just 200-500 feet down, sometimes at a rate of 14 an hour? A (sort of) manmade enemy threatens those efforts though, and they can’t kill, study, and eat it fast enough.
In every direction, things are getting legitimately intense. To the side, the submarine’s depth meter clicks toward the 500-foot mark. Above, condensation pools and drips as the tiny sub sweats out its temperature-change. Below, a vertical canyon walls falls away into blackness, its scale so vast that it threatens to overwhelm the brain. And in front—just on the other side of a gleaming, convex bubble-window that pushes into the dark—four figures cling to the sub’s collection basket, surreally lit by the glare of the vessel’s external lights. They’re all members of the California Academy of Sciences’ “twilight zone” deep-dive team, and they’re headed for a five-hour shift in one of the most mysterious—and critical—ocean layers on Earth.
Sub rides aren’t the norm for this crew (in the increasingly underfunded world of scientific exploration, subs aren’t really the norm for anyone), but since a quicker-than-normal descent could give them a few extra minutes at today’s 450-foot max depth, they’re giving it a shot. Called the Curasub, the five-person craft belongs to Adriaan “Dutch” Schrier—a former deep-diver who owns Curaçao’s Royal Sea Aquarium Resort, grounded a sister-ship of Cousteau’s Calypso to serve as his office, and has built more islands, kept more secrets, wooed more women, sweet-talked more dolphins, and risked more death than anyone you know.
Fortunately, Dutch also has a passion for advancing marine science, which explains why the Academy team—along with the Smithsonian’s Carole Baldwin and Cristina Castillo, both tucked into the sub beside me—are watching Curaçao’s famous turquoise waters turn a blue so deep it hums.