The Deep Sea, and Why We Need to Save It

The Monterey Bay Aquarium is about an hour drive from my hometown, so it’s a family favorite destination on a weekends or holidays. This year we sprung for our first family membership after doing the math and realizing we’d save money.

The aquarium shared news this week about a special exhibit planned for 2021 on The Deep Sea, which will showcase life 200 meters or more beneath the ocean where light does not exist. How do you know you’ve reached the deep sea? Scientists explain: “You know it when you don’t see it.”

Sketchnotes: A Deep Sea Seminar

This exhibit is of special interest to me because I got to be part of its early planning more than two years ago. I was invited to join a group of technologist and creatives from the Bay Area for a two-day seminar with biologists from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) and aquarium staff. In exchange, we helped brainstorm some ideas for the future exhibit — a virtual glass elevator in which visitors “descend” into the deep sea; a species naming contest; live streams from autonomous underwater vehicles. I’m eager to learn with the rest of you if any of our ideas become reality.

Meeting and hearing from Executive Director Julie Packard, and learning about the “Pig Butt” and “Killer Sponge” deep sea creatures from biologists, were just a few highlights.

There is so much to learn about the deep sea even eight hours of dense presentations was just a primer. But it was clear how important a healthy ocean is to the survival of Planet Earth. Like so many other things in nature, it is under threat by human civilization: Plastic waste, ocean temperature change and de-oxygenation; destructive deep-sea mining for precious minerals like manganese for the electronics industry.

Save the Ocean!

Did you know the Deep Sea produces more than 50 percent of the oxygen on Planet Earth? Forget the rain forests, the Ocean is truly the lungs of our planet.

We know less about the surface of the deep sea than we do about the surface of Mars. More people have walked on the moon than touched the bottom of the ocean. And of all the species that live beneath the dark, we’ve identified about 1 percent of them.

Rather than getting all weepy about its potential demise due to man-made calamities, I celebrated this new-found knowledge with illustrated sketchnotes. The amazing creatures and civilizations that live beneath the “shallow sea” are a sight to behold, and I’m excited for what’s in store for us next year when the Monterey Bay Aquarium brings it into focus.

Hopefully it will spur more people to take action.

Browse my full sketchbook, including my view from the lobby of Asilomar State Park, the difference between bioluminescence and fluorescence, and a profile of Don Walsh one of two living humans who has visited the deep sea.

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