Robot reveals secrets of the coral reef

Welcome back: SuBastian found the first sea snake on the Ashmore Reef for 23 years.

Is exploring the ocean more important than going to space? New photos taken by a machine deep underwater have given scientists clues about life on the seabed – and how to protect it.

What’s happening

The team of scientists breathed a sigh of relief. The robot was back. For 18 days, it had been exploring one of the most mysterious places known to man. It found strange rocks and alien creatures.

But the robot was not on a different planet. It was in the sea, 150 metres underwater.

Find out more

The ROV SuBastian is an underwater robot. It has just completed a trip to the Ashmore Reef in Australia.

Its mission was to make a map of the seafloor. A film of the trip was played online for audiences. There were over 140 hours to watch.

SuBasitan caught pictures of lots of unusual wildlife. One photo showed a pygmy seahorse hiding in the coral. It also found a sea snake that experts thought was extinct. There were even species never seen before by humans, like the great spotted cowrie.

The mission helped scientists study the health of the corals. They took samples that could help protect the seabed in future. And they found that the reefs were “diverse, vibrant and healthy”.

Is exploring the ocean more important than going to space?

Some say…

Yes! We know more about outer space than we do about our own planet. That simply does not make sense. The sea is important for keeping life going on Earth, but it is under threat from pollution and global warming. If we find out more about how it works, we can protect it better!

Others think…

No! Space exploration is just as important. It has led to all sorts of new technology – from Velcro to medicine. Plus, it helps us understand where we belong in the universe. And a deep-sea dive could never inspire as much wonder as walking on Mars.

You Decide

  1. Would you rather go to the bottom of the ocean or walk on the surface of Mars?

Activities

  1. Design a building that could be built on the ocean floor, where people could live and do research.

Some People Say...

“The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.”

Jacques Cousteau (1910 – 1997), French ocean explorer

What do you think?

Word Watch

Mysterious
Strange, unknown or hard to understand.
Ashmore Reef
A coral reef in the ocean north of Australia.
Pygmy
Something that is smaller than the normal size. A pygmy seahorse is not much bigger than a fingernail.
Extinct
Died out or disappeared. An extinct species is one that no longer exists on Earth.
Great spotted cowrie
A very rare mollusc with a glossy, spotted shell.
Diverse
Made up of lots of things that are different from one another.
Exploration
The act of searching an unfamiliar place to find out more about it.

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