Back to the Deep

Back to the Deep
Photo by Advanced Imaging & Visualization Lab ©Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

Professor of biology Paul Yancey will return to the bottom of the dark ocean. And he’s going courtesy of Google.

Yancey has been included as a grantee on the Schmidt Ocean Institute’s expedition to the Mariana Trench, the deepest spot in the ocean.

In November, the SOI will team up with a group of biologists and geologists to explore depths of up to almost 11,000 meters. Yancey plans to take a Whitman student on the expedition.

Google CEO Eric Schmidt and his wife Wendy founded SOI to “support oceanographic research projects that help expand the understanding of the world’s oceans through technological advancements, intelligent observation and analysis and open sharing of information,” according to SOI’s website.

The Mariana Trench (near Guam) and other hadal trenches (depths from 6,000 to nearly 11,000 meters deep) are familiar destinations for Yancey.

Because of his experience exploring the deep ocean, Yancey was a science and education outreach consultant for Titanic director James Cameron's 3D film “DeepSea Challenge,” in theaters August 8th. Yancey was also on a scientific expedition to the Kermadec Trench, northeast of New Zealand, when the hybrid remotely operated vehicle Nereus was confirmed lost at 9,990 meters, in May.

Yancey said the unmanned vehicle likely imploded under pressure as great as 16,000 pounds per square inch.

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution built Nereus to explore the deepest parts of the ocean in 2008.

The SOI expedition of which Yancey is participating could help answer enduring questions about the biology of hadal zones, including what lives there and how the sea life survives the massive pressure. The research could also improve understanding of the processes that control earthquake and tsunami formation, among others geological goals.