Using diagrams as guides, Marine Biologists Geir Huse and Anne Liv Johnsen determine the catch. This isn’t always easy. (Photo: Hanne Østli Jakobsen)
The sea is full of amphipods and the largest can be 30 centimetres in length. This individual was small, like the others found on this voyage, and had to be photographed in a microscope. (Photo: Hanne Østli Jakobsen)
his little worm, Sagitta enflata, is nearly invisible on land. Its features are revealed in a microscope with a back light. It has a brownish mouth on the anterior and little else but a gut stretching back to the cloaca. (Photo: Hanne Østli Jakobsen)
A lot of these Mictophiformes were hauled up in the trawl net during the voyage. These too show signs of friction damage. Their large eyes are adapted to the darkness in deep waters. (Photo: Hanne Østli Jakobsen)
This little amphipod also hides itself in what may seem like an unlikely camouflage suit of red. This particular individual was tough and continued to wriggle long after being hauled aboard. (Photo: Hanne Østli Jakobsen)
Shrimps and other creatures that live in deeper ocean waters are often red. It’s a strong signal colour up in our world on shore but red light doesn’t travel as far as other colours underwater. A red animal absorbs the other colours of the spectrum and thus appears black down in the depths. (Photo: Hanne Østli Jakobsen)
The bathypelagic zone stretches from 1,000 to 4,000 metres below the surface. This denizen of the deep did not fare well on its way up in the trawl net. (Photo: Hanne Østli Jakobsen)
A tiny jellyfish resembles a distant nebula photographed by the Hubble telescope. With no jellyfish experts around, it was returned to the sea without being classified. (Photo: Hanne Østli Jakobsen)
It is hard to determine the species of krill from photos, as the distinctions between them are often minute and require a hands-on investigation. But this is probably a Thysanopoda. (Photo: Hanne Østli Jakobsen)
Small squids are brought aboard in the trawl net. This particular one was a little larger than the others, about 15 cm from the tail to the end of the shorter tentacles. It was tossed back into the sea. (Photo: Hanne Østli Jakobsen)
The deep sea Atolla jellyfish also filled the trawl nets in the Labrador Sea. The wear and tear of being hauled up in a trawl net did away with most of its fragile tentacles. (Photo: Hanne Østli Jakobsen)
The crown jellyfish, Periphylla periphylla, is much larger than the Atolla jellyfish and massed of them were hauled aboard. Some of the scientists get lightly stung, while others don’t notice a thing. Your reporter didn’t dare test the power of the tentacles herself. (Photo: Hanne Østli Jakobsen)
The exact identity of this little crustacean was uncertain when it was brought aboard. Now it’s been preserved in alcohol for identification in a lab in Bergen. (Photo: Hanne Østli Jakobsen)
No surprise that this beauty is called a dragonfish or a viperfish. On its dorsal side you can see part of its lamp organ which it uses to attract prey in the murky depths. (Photo: Hanne Østli Jakobsen)
The amphipod is usually less than a centimetre long and might not look like much in your hand. It takes a microscope to do them justice. Then you understand that Ridley Scott’s “Alien” is inspired by these tiny sea creatures. (Photo: Hanne Østli Jakobsen)

Creatures from the deep and cold Atlantic sea

Check out what swims around a thousand metres down off Greenland.

Denne artikkelen er over ti år gammel og kan inneholde utdatert informasjon.

The BBC and other documentary producers have created an industry out of presenting the mysteries of the ocean depths. Thousands of metres beneath the waves are species we’ve never seen, heard of or imagined could exist.

But you needn’t probe the great ocean rifts and troughs to reach exotic and strange creatures. Scientists on board the research ship “G. O. Sars” never trawled deeper than a kilometre during our voyage from Greenland to Norway, but they come up with some fascinating catches.

From the surface down to 1,000 metres

The sea is divided into vertical zones.

The entire free mass of ocean water, everything above the seabed, is referred to as the pelagic layer. It’s divided into horizontal zones but the most important is the mesopelagic zone. This comprises the murky depths from around 200 metres to 1,000 metres.

Over the course of the three weeks research vessel “G. O. Sars” will be traversing the Labrador Sea, the Irming Sea south of Iceland, then the Iceland Sea to the north and finally the Norwegian Sea. The objective is to gain understanding of differences among the various deep sea regions and how they interact.

Our reporter Hanne Jakobsen travels with the scientists on “G. O. Sars” from Nuuk, Greenland to Bergen, Norway. 

The epipelagic zone stretches down from the surface to 200 metres.

These are the two zones the researchers on “G. O. Sars” are studying on this voyage.

The two zones contain krill, small fish and many other tiny morsels which are eaten by commercially important fish like herring and mackerel.

Mostly jellyfish

We are approaching the Irminger Sea, south of Iceland, but we are still west of the southern tip of Greenland. The clocks on board are still set at Norwegian time, GMT +1. 

So when the deep-sea trawl net is lifted on deck it’s 11 PM. Yet the sun is shining and keeping the scientists and crew warm as they pull in the nets.

Jellyfish dominate the catch. The Institute of Marine Research’s jellyfish experts got off in Nuuk, so the scientists aren’t particularly enthusiastic about the wet, stinging clumps that flicker in the sunlight.

An hour or two passes from the time a trawl net is released until it is hauled on board again. This can be devastating for some the fragile creatures that are caught. The flow of water presses them against the net and one another.

So much that is brought up is damaged goods, but not everything.

Freezing catches for identification back in Bergen

The scientists are not netting sea creatures in the mesopelagic zone for sport or for our next meal. The plan is to capture and chart some of the rich diversity of animal life down where the sun never shines. 

Most of the scientists on the ship are more used to voyages in the Norwegian and Barents Seas. Few have worked in these Atlantic waters to the west and are sometimes surprised by what is hauled on deck.

Time is a factor when the catch is swung aboard.

Known and unknown species are registered, measured and weighed as quickly as possible. A little selection is frozen and brought back to Norway. Creatures that the scientists can’t identify can end up in special bags, market “indet” – indeterminable.

When frozen quickly at -80° C, the tissue and more importantly the creature’s DNA is preserved, so the researchers can examine them later in labs.

Translated by: Glenn Ostling

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