'Alien Deep' show to feature Irish seafloor expedition
MARINE INITIATIVE:IRISH SCIENCE will receive international exposure this autumn when a joint television production involving National Geographic Television and the Marine Institute is released. It will be broadcast in 143 countries and will feature an expedition to the mid-Atlantic seafloor where unique animals were discovered.
Water depths of 3,000m were reached and the life forms were strange indeed, so the title of the series, Alien Deep, is wholly appropriate, said Dr Andrew Wheeler of University College Cork.
He was taking part in an event yesterday called the Atlantic Symposium at the ongoing EuroScience Open Forum taking place at the Convention Centre Dublin.
National Geographic’s Alien Deep includes six programmes and one features the mid-Atlantic expedition, said Gary Johnstone, senior series producer at the station.
Dr Wheeler led the mission last August aboard the national research vessel RV Celtic Explorer, in a project involving UCC, the Geological Survey of Ireland, NUI Galway, the University of Southampton and the National Oceanography Centre in the UK.
The series, however, is much more than television entertainment. The oceans are a “life-support system” for the planet and yet people do not see its importance to life, nor do they feel threatened when it comes under pressure by pollution or climate change, said Marine Institute chief executive Peter Heffernan.
“The pressure on this finite resource will be immense,” he said. More scientific research was needed to understand and protect our oceans.
The expert panel assembled for the symposium described how little we know about the oceans. “We know more about the surface of Mars than the seabed surface,” Mr Johnstone said. “The future of the planet is completely wrapped up in our knowledge about the oceans.”
Prof Scott Glenn of Rutgers University Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences described how we could employ advanced technology to explore the oceans. Robot rovers could be sent down onto the sea floor to examine the depths and search for life forms, he said.
There were also efforts to lay cables on the seabed that could link underwater autonomous laboratories and sensors, he said. These could provide a wealth of data.