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DSSV Pressure Drop/Nekton all set for a second mission in our seas | 17 March 2020

DSSV Pressure Drop/Nekton all set for a second mission in our seas

Members of the local media being guided on a tour of the vessel (Photo: Louis Toussaint)

Research vessel DSSV Pressure Drop is currently at the New Port waiting for its departure this afternoon for its second mission.

It will be undertaking the joint Seychelles-Maldives expedition led by scientists from Nekton and the University of Oxford working with, and on behalf of the governments of Seychelles and the Maldives.

Scientists from Seychelles and the Maldives will be participating throughout the mission.

The principal secretary for environment in the Ministry of Environment, Energy and Climate Change (MEECC), Alain de Commarmond, once again explained the importance of such a mission. “In the last expedition the farthest we explored were 250 metres to 350 metres in deep sea around our outer islands. After the mission Nekton came back to us with another proposal. They got the same partnership with Maldives and they asked us if it is possible to do some more research in the Seychelles water while heading to Maldives. We accepted the offer as we will focus more in the North of Seychelles outside Bird Island and Coco de Mer Ridge. We also want to explore a few places just outside our EEZ spots. The research will be focused on seamounts in the Midnight Zone. The Midnight Zone describes ocean depths between 2000 metres and 5000 metres. While biomass peaks in surface waters, biodiversity peaks within the Midnight Zone. The expedition will undertake the first research of seamounts in this area of the Indian Ocean. With high levels of biological endemism, seamounts are often described as ‘undersea Galapagoses’, home to species found nowhere else on the planet,” explained Mr De Commarmond.

This expedition will determine how we should protect our seas and also see how we can sustainably exploit our seas. Nekton Expedition 2020 will cost 3.9 million pounds.

This time again a young Seychellois, Sheena Talma – who participated in the expedition last time also – and a representative of the MEECC will participate in the mission.

PS De Commarmond noted that in May, a symposium was planned to take place in Seychelles so that Nekton can share the first discoveries and information received from the first mission. “But unfortunately with the COVID-19 pandemic we have postponed it for a later date,” noted the PS.

‘First Descent: Midnight Zone’ is one of a series of expeditions that Nekton, a UK charitable research institute, is carrying out across the Indian Ocean documenting changes beneath the waves in a bid to catalyse 30% protection by 2030. In Seychelles water two confirmed places have been spotted for the researches which are to the North of the Bird Island and an area call Coco de Mer limit to our EEZ zone.

The mission director, Oliver Steeds, welcomed the press on the DSSV Pressure Drop and gave us a tour of the vessel. “DSSV Pressure Drop is a Research/Survey Vessel that was built in 1985 (35 years ago) and her length overall (LOA) is 68.28 metres and her width is 13.11 metres. The DSSV Pressure Drop is a research vessel fitted with the highest fidelity full ocean depth sonar available and fully-equipped wet and dry labs. The boat includes a submersible platform with a weather-proof storage hangar and a fully-equipped maintenance bay for the Limiting Factor.”

Talking about this second mission, Mr Steeds added that “the goal and the objectives of the mission have been co-defined by the government of Seychelles and the government of Maldives. We will focus on the seamounts/ volcanic mountains and undertake systematic research from the seabed to the surface. We will try to gather as much data such as environmental, chemistry, geo-physical data to inform the sustainable management of the waters around Seychelles and the Maldives. We are using among others the most technologically advanced submersible, landers, baited cameras, mid-water traps. Two people will go in the submarine including a Seychellois”.

Mr Steeds noted that the safety of the crew is paramount for our mission. The team will be under water for eight to 10 hours and they will be in the Seychelles water for two to three weeks. The people from around the world will be able to follow the mission through their sites.

Miss Talma is the only Seychellois that will be experiencing this event twice. She is also on contract with Nekton as a science programme coordinator. “Already for the first time, it was an unforgettable and unbelievable experience. Now I am looking forward to this second mission where we will go further down. My role on the boat is to make sure that all the scientific part of the mission is being conducted and all data is being managed and a copy kept in Seychelles. On board with Nekton, they conduct various projects and this makes the whole experience special. We discover many new species and once you go in the submarine, everything is silent. It was just incredible. Now I am really looking forward for the new experience.”

Seychelles NATION wishes the NEKTON team a fruitful and safe expedition.

 

Vidya Gappy

 

 

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