A Light in the Darkness

A  key feature of Deep-See is the Large-Area Plankton Imaging System, or LAPIS camera, mounted on the front of the vehicle. It was developed at WHOI and captures 24 megapixel, high-definition images of the many creatures large and small that live in the ocean twilight zone, especially those with gelatinous bodies.

The camera uses powerful LED lights to illuminate a 1-square-meter region of water before the vehicle passes through, and has captured some of the most captivating images of the mysterious ocean depths. Over the course of the expedition, the LAPIS camera has worked extraordinarily well, imaging everything from large jellies to small zooplankton.

“It’s an engineering accomplishment,” said WHOI acoustic oceanographer and co-chief scientist Andone Lavery. “It will give very high-resolution insight into the depth organization of these organisms that we’re imaging. We’re getting very fine-scale vertical resolution that you can’t get with the other systems on board.”

On the other end of Deep-See are the black fins that keep the vehicle stable in the water. At one point, they were supposed to be decorated with decals recognizing Deep-See's generous funders (thank you, NSF and OTZ), but their oil-resistant surface foiled even the most industrial-strength adhesive that the WHOI Creative Studio could throw at them. So a few artistic souls decided to go old-school on those blank slates with a twilight zone-appropriate theme.

In addition to the LAPIS camera, Deep-See has forward-looking sonars to see what might be avoiding it as it flies through the twilight zone.