Bahamas Archipelago Research

Dr. Alshuth participated in a deep-sea research expedition to the Bahamas Archipelago on board the RV SEWARD JOHNSON studying  benthic organisms living far beyond the shallow continental shelf in a permanent cold and dark environment.  This expedition was part of a three-year study of reproduction and recruitment of tropical benthic deep sea invertebrates, funded by the National Science Foundation.  Goal of the expedition was to explore the deep-sea benthos near New Providence Island in the Bahamas:  3,000 feet below the sea surface. 

Stationed aboard the SEWARD JOHNSON is the Johnson-Sea-Link II (JSL), a sophisticated and highly maneuverable, manned submersible, capable to dive in depths up to 3,000 feet.  At position 24º53' northern latitude and 77º32' western longitude Dr. Alshuth dives aboard the JSL into permanent darkness while recording scientific data.  Sparkling life surrounds the JSL - bioluminescent ocean creatures, high densities of floating plankton,  shrimp and small fish - endless live in the darkness of the deep ocean.  After descending for 30 minutes JSL reaches our destination: 3,000 feet deep on the ocean floor.   What Dr. Alshuth sees here lies beyond her expectations:  Fascinated by schooling squid, most elegantly swimming around JSL and on starboard side hundreds of metallic sparkling eyes:  shrimp, hiding in the sediment.  There - a giant grouper, schools of exotic looking fish, spiny sea urchins, starfish and brittle stars.  Creatures here are rare, slowly moving , adapted to low temperatures and darkness of the deep ocean.  Living under these extreme conditions slows down their  entire metabolism and also effects their reproduction.

The underwater laboratory is on station and starts collecting scientific instruments which have been anchored on the ocean bottom during a previous expedition.  The scientific equipment is used to collect organisms, to videotape the abundance of rare creatures and to record ocean currents in the deep sea.  JSL positions a variety of hard substrates used as habitats to collect benthic marine organisms.  Specialized equipment such as manipulator arms, suction devices, and rotary plankton samplers are assisting it's special mission, making it possible for crewmen to accomplish almost any work from within the sub that once was done only by divers.   The sub is further outfitted with state-of-the-art equipment like active sonar, still and broadcast quality video cameras and special designed arc lights.  These lights approximate sunlight, illuminating underwater scenes in true color and near daylight conditions, even in the darkest seas.

Ready to ascend - mission completed.  Air blowing into the tanks of JSL, but the best part of the dive is yet to come:  like sparkling stars in the endless sky - bioluminescent plankton organisms light up the dark black ocean.  A never forgetting memory for Dr. Alshuth.  Then, it seems like eternity, but  just minutes later,  white air bubbles in the turquoise clear ocean signalize the end of this journey.  After a two hour exploring dive, Dr. Alshuth ascends aboard the JSL from the mysterious deep life hiding secretly under the ocean surface. 

JSL launches and is ready for the descending dive. Quickly and almost soundless, the JSL glides into the blue waters of the Bahamas.  The safety rope unhooks - JSL floats independently on the ocean, without being connected to the SJ anymore.  Within minutes the submersible disappears in the mysterious deep of the Atlantic, just the sparkling air bubbles indicate it's existence - a scenery which is repeated three times a day.


Research vessel: 


Nationality:  USA - Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, Ft. Pierce, FL

Expedition: Johnson-Sea-Link Submersible

Destination: Bahamas

Research Activities: Deep Sea Oceanography


Course Bahamas:

RV Seward Johnson


Submersible Johnson-Sea-Link II

Dr. Alshuth

and Johnson-Sea-Link Submersible

Ready to descend

Johnson-Sea-Link II

Dr. Alshuth

diving onboard Johnson-Sea-Link II

Aboard Johnson-Sea-Link II

Dr. Alshuth in lab aboard

RV Seward Johnson

Deep sea urchins collected with Johnson-Sea-Link II

Last Dive