Journey into Midnight: Light and Life Below the Twilight Zone

Background Information

The essays below will help you to understand the goals and objectives of the mission and provide additional context and information about the places being explored and the science, tools, and technologies being used.

  • Mission Plan

    By Sönke Johnsen

    Shrimp spewing bioluminescence

    The mission for this expedition is to explore what happens to deep-sea animals when a very important constraint is taken away from them – that of light.

    Read more
  • The Medusa

    By Edith Widder

    The Medusa camera system just prior to launch during 2012 giant squid hunt off Japan.

    The Medusa is the same stealth camera system that captured the first video of a giant squid in the deep sea. The concept behind the system is that it is unobtrusive. Because the Medusa uses red lights that are invisible to most deep-sea inhabitants and has no noise-generating thrusters, it can serve as a stealthy observer of light and life below the twilight zone.

    Read more
  • Tucker Trawl

    By Tamara Frank

    Mother Tucker Trawl

    It’s critically important for this research that the team collects live animals in excellent condition, and a 9m2 Tucker Trawl with a carefully designed collecting vesselat the end of the net, called a cod-end, allows them to do just that. Tucker Trawls come in a variety of sizes, and are affectionately referred to a baby Tuckers for the smaller ones, and mother Tuckers for the larger ones.

    Read more
  • Deep-sea Mysteries: Bizarre Creatures from the Earth’s Last Unexplored Frontier

    By Heather Bracken-Grissom

    Figure A: Cerataspis monstrosa the ‘monster’ larva that has remained unlinked to an adult form for 184 years. Figure B: Plesiopenaeus armatus the adult form of C. monstrosa

    The deep sea is the largest habitat on Earth and the last unexplored frontier on our planet. It is home to peculiar creatures and mystifying phenomena that appear to live only in science-fiction stories. These animals’ unique physical traits have attracted the interest of many people, including the general public and scientists alike.

    Read more
  • How are Cephalopods Adapted to the Dark, Deep World Below 1,000 Meters?

    By Heather Judkins

    Whiplash Squid

    Cephalopods are known for their amazing ability to camouflage and change their appearance quickly in the shallow ocean zones around the world. What do they do when there is no light available? The need to camouflage no longer exists, so what adaptations has this group of invertebrates developed?

    Read more
  • Remotely Operated Vehicle Global Explorer

    By Tamara Frank

    Global Explorer

    The team will be collecting fish, shrimp, and squid for explorations of vision and bioluminescence below 1,000 meters (3,280 feet), but the trawl net tends to destroy the jellyfish, known as gelatinous zooplankton. Since so little is known about animals that live below 1,000 meters, they will be using the Deep-Sea Systems Global Explorer remotely operated vehicle to also explore these depths, filming animals in their natural habitats.

    Read more
  • Fishes of the Midnight Zone

    By Tracey T. Sutton

    Awesome squid at 1,100 meters (3,610 feet).

    The bathypelagic zone hosts a unique assortment of highly adapted fishes, most of which are extremely rare in museum and research collections. These adaptations help fishes find and eat prey, and find each other, in a permanently sunless habitat. In some cases, the adaptations have driven the radiation of entire fish families in the bathypelagic zone, where in other cases these adaptations allow individual species of primarily shallower-living fish families (e.g., lanternfishes, hatchetfishes) to survive.

    Read more
  • Vision in the Deep

    By Tamara Frank

    Vision in the Deep

    Most deep-sea animals do not have color vision. They have a single, blue-sensitive, visual pigment because 1) as you go deeper through water in the ocean, all the colors disappear except for blue and 2) most bioluminescence is blue. Why waste space in your eyes for multiple visual pigments when there’s only blue light to see? There are exceptions, of course, and that’s when things get really interesting.

    Read more