HX’s Roald Amundsen finds aliens in the Antarctic

HX’s Roald Amundsen finds aliens in the Antarctic
Edited by Travel Weekly

    Expedition cruise line HX’s hybrid-battery vessel, MS Roald Amundsen, has captured images of alien-like sea life through rare underwater drone footage from the unexplored Stonington Island in Antarctica.

    The marine life, rarely seen by human eyes, featured several species of plump and colourful, sponge-eating starfish; bottlebrush-like sea pens, a type of soft-coral; various, tubular, horny and warty-looking sponges; large, slow-growing Antarctic scallops; rusty orange, leathery looking sea squirts; and icefish.

    The awe-inspiring footage also captured a seabed covered an army of porcelain-like brittle stars in Deception Island, reminiscent of extra-terrestrial beings, and a peculiar feathery-looking crinoids, relatives of starfish, in Horseshoe Island. These curious creatures were much more abundant in the Jurassic Period; and are more commonly found as fossils in limestone outcrops on land.

    During the 16 drone deployments, from depths of 10 to 115 metres across 11 sites, fish species were observed in six locations, and fish guarding a nest were also identified, resulting in a successful initial phase for the research project.

    The 115-metre dive also set a ground-breaking company record for drone deep diving in Orne Harbour.

    Guests on MS Roald Amundsen actively participated in the drone deployment process to help foster a deeper appreciation of the fragile marine ecosystem of the Southern Ocean.

    Roald Amundsen looks beyond snow, icebergs, whales and penguins

    The drone footage offered a rare glimpse beyond the snow, icebergs, whales and penguins passengers usually experience in the region. The project revealed a vibrant and concealed ecosystems hidden in the depths of the icy waters below the Antarctic Circle.

    Throughout January and February, researcher Dr Manuel Novillo, in collaboration with the expert expedition team on MS Roald Amundsen, led the initiative to pioneer a new approach in establishing a monitoring program for Antarctic fish spawning grounds.

    “This research goes beyond science communication; it’s about making a real impact,” said Dr Verena Meraldi, Chief Scientist at HX. “I’m thrilled to see our underwater drones utilised to their full potential, contributing to a project that holds immense promise.”

    Dr Novillo expressed gratitude for the support and enthusiasm surrounding the project, emphasizing its significance for future research endeavours.

    “This is just the beginning,” Dr Novillo said. “I’m immensely grateful for the opportunity to delve into the mysteries of the Antarctic depths, and I’m eager to see where this journey takes us when we return next year. Hopefully we will identify new fish spawning grounds and work hard to protect these important areas.”

    The state-of-the-art Science Centre onboard MS Roald Amundsen has provided an exceptional platform for this ground-breaking research, generating considerable interest among guests and crew alike.

    Setting of from Roald Amunsden in a Zodiac to take some underwater drone footage.Setting of from Roald Amunsden in a Zodiac to take some underwater drone footage.

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