Our Story

Nekton is a not-for-profit research foundation and a UK registered charity established to accelerate the scientific exploration and protection of the ocean.

Only 8% of the ocean is in any kind of designated marine protected area (MPA), including 5% in implemented MPAs, and only 2.5% is in fully or highly protected, implemented MPAs (source: Marine Conservation Institute, MPA Atlas).

'Nekton' is a zoological noun describing aquatic animals that can swim against or independently of a current.

Nekton Begins

2015

Nekton is established as UK charity with a founding grant from XL Catlin and then Garfield Weston Foundation. Founded by journalist Oliver Steeds, Professor Alex Rogers joins as Science Director and Nekton begins collaboration with University of Oxford.

  • ‘From journalist to helping save the oceans’ Forbes


Mission I: XL Catlin Deep Ocean Survey

2016

Bermuda & NW Atlantic Mission - underpinned by an alliance of 30 partners incl. Governments of Bermuda and Canada, 2 research vessels deployed, scientists from a dozen different research institutes collaborate, 6 Research Grants, teams of technical divers from 8 nations, two Triton submersibles, a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) and a dozen other research tools are deployed. 400+ submarine hours underwater. Collection and analysis of 40,000 specimens and samples, 240 video transects and 92miles of geophysical data. Mission details– 18 scientific papers published within 24months.

  • Giving the ocean a health check-up (Huff Post)
  • Exploring the Deep: From Our Own Correspondent (BBC)
  • Plunging Beneath the sea to map the ocean (New Scientist)
  • Discovering the largest migration on Earth (Guardian)
  • Coral bleaching is killing reefs (PBS)
  • Uncovering Secrets of the Deep Sea (Telegraph)


Deepest live radio show

2016

World record breaking radio and comedy show broadcast from the depths with Sirius XM’s John Fugelsang - participation from Mark Hamill, David Crosby, Daily Show’s Lewis Black and others.


UNESCO World Heritage in the High Seas launched

2016

Nekton join forces with UNESCO to launch major new initiative to protect the High Seas.

  • United Nations urge expanding World Heritage sites to High Seas (Science)
  • An Idea Whose Time Has Come (UNESCO); Watch launch film


Submarine STEM launched

2016

New educational initiative launched in partnership with Encounter EDU and aligned to curricula worldwide with includes lesson plans, educational films and dynamic 360-degree films. Reaches over 1 million young people in first year.


Lionfish Invasion of the depths revealed

2016

First scientific papers from Mission published revealing the deepest recorded evidence of lionfish in the Caribbean (PeerJ). New robots to kill lionfish at depth tested on Bermuda Mission.

  • How do you stop invasive lionfish? Maybe with a robotic zapper (PBS)

Global ocean data portal launched

2017

Two years in development with the University of Oxford, OcToPUS (The Ocean Tool for Public Understanding of Science) is launched as the world’s first open-sourced, global ocean data portal providing a single source to freely access historical and current global marine data.


First multi-disciplinary field research protocol to standardise marine research

2017

Piloted during Mission I (XL Catlin Deep Ocean Survey), 16 leading marine scientists define the first multi-disciplinary standardised protocols for marine research, called GOSSIP. Standardisation accelerates data analysis and increases applicability and impact to inform ocean management and conservation. Full details.

  • The General Ocean Survey and Sampling Iterative Protocol – ‘GOSSIP’ - Oceanography.
  • GOSSIP – the film (Nekton)


VR Film to full ocean depth launched with Don Walsh

2017

Narrated by Captain Don Walsh, a unique 360-VR film revealing the story of the journey 7 miles down to full ocean depth. In 1960 Walsh and Jacques Picard became the first to descend to Challenger Deep - codenamed ‘Project Nekton’.

  • The True Story behind the deepest dive in history (Telegraph)
  • Dive into the Deep – as Don Walsh narrates a 360 degree simulation of his record breaking descent in this stunning video (Dive Magazine)


Sky Ocean Rescue Launched

2017

Sky Plc launch major initiative to raise awareness of ocean plastic – citing their coverage of, and participation in Nekton’s mission in Bermuda – including on ocean plastics - as the spark.

  • Scientists Health Check of the World’s Oceans (Sky News)
  • Sky Ocean Rescue (Sky)


Deep Ocean VR Art installation opens at European City of Culture

2017

Recorded during the Bermuda Mission and curated as a multi-screen VR experience, audiences at the European City of Culture 2017 experience life beneath the waves.


Kensington Tours becomes Founding Partner of Nekton

2017

The leading luxury travel company in North America, Kensington Tours commits to long-term support of Nekton’s operations and the next series of Missions. The mission’s submersible to be named Kensington Deep.

Scientific discoveries from Bermuda Mission revealed

2018

  • New Black Coral species named(Zootaxa.),
  • Discovery of dozens of new species confirm biodiversity hotspot discovered in Bermuda (Journal of Phycology)
  • Deepest DNA sequenced algae(European Journal of Phycology)
  • Deeper reef fish fauna limiting applicability of deep refuge hypothesis & vulnerability of deep reefs to targeted fishing pressure and invasive species (Frontiers in Marine Science)
  • New I/D guide to Bermuda marine species published – including 100 new species discovered on the Mission - free online.
  • Unique biological communities found at mesophotic and rariphotic depths(Royal Society);
  • New algae species discovered reveals new details of trans-ocean distribution (Journal of Phycology)


New Ocean Zone – Rariphotic Zone

2018

Discovery of the Rariphotic Zone - the Rare Light Zone – in depths from 130m to 300m is confirmed in the waters around Bermuda. Over 100 new species discovered. Reported as ‘one of the largest new ecosystems found in the world in decades’.

  • 100 species discovered as scientists find new ocean zone (Telegraph);
  • 100 new species discovered in Bermuda’s Twilight Zone (NY Post)
  • Exploring a new ‘Zone’ of deep-sea coral life – Hidden in Plain Sight (News Deeply)
  • Discovering the Rariphotic Zone (Nekton Film – 2minute, 15minute)


Omega Becomes Mission Partner for First Descent 2018-2022

2018

Omega announce their multi-year support and partnership to undertake a series of missions to explore and conserve the world’s most unknown and least protected ocean, the Indian Ocean. The mission’s submersible to be named Omega Seamaster II. Mission details.

  • First Descent – narrated by Morgan Freeman – launch film


Comores Expedition

2018

Pathfinder mission for First Descent: Indian Ocean - in partnership with WildTrust, CORDIO East Africa, South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity, University of Comoros. ROV deployments to establish initial morphological data to inform future research in the Indian Ocean. Mission details.


Weddell Sea Expedition

2018-19

In partnership with the Flotilla Foundation, Scott Polar Research Institute, Nelson Mandela University, University of Cape Town and the University of Canterbury – deploying AUVs and ROVs to investigate life beneath the ice and the potential implications of climate change. Mission details.

  • An international expedition to Antarctica’s icy frontier (Geographical)
  • Antarctic Expedition hopes for Ernest Shackleton bonus (BBC)

Bermuda announce 20% ocean protected

2019

The Government of Bermuda commit to protecting 20% of their ocean territory. Nekton’s mission – XL Catlin Deep Ocean Survey – credited as galvanising force for public and political support for the new ocean management initiative. The datasets are critical for marine spatial planning, designation of protected areas and management.

  • Marine Sanctuary planned for island - BerNews


First Descent launched with Alliance of 40 partners

2019

An Alliance of 40 partners join forces including Mission Partners Omega and Kensington Tours and Strategic Partners - The Commonwealth, Teledyne Marine (Subsea Technology) Associated Press (News Agency), Sky (News & Media Partner), Inmarsat (Satellite Communications), Helly Hansen (Apparel) and Brownie Global Logistics (Submersible Operations).

  • Scientists prepare to explore uncharted depths (Daily Mail);
  • Indian Ocean depths to be explored for the first time (NBC);
  • Scientists to investigate climate change effects in Indian Ocean (NY Post)


Deep Blue Grants launched

2019

New Grant programme established and launched with the Seychelles Conservation and Climate Adaptation Trust (SeyCCAT) to fund six Seychellois researchers to conduct innovative deep-sea research in Seychelles. More details on Knowledge Exchange programme.

  • Creating a legacy of marine science and ocean management (with SeyCCAT)


First Descent: Seychelles

2019

To support the Government’s commitments to protect 30% of the their ocean (over 400,000 km2) and TNC’s marine spatial planning work, the Mission systematically gathers the first data beneath 30 metres across 7 major sites in Seychelles. By the numbers: 10 Seychellois scientists, 2300 nautical miles, 21 research tools, team from 14 nations, 21 research technologies, 6 new technologies and system developed, 300+ science deployments, 1200+ biological samples, 20 TB of ocean data.

  • View Mission Trailer (2mins), Deep Dive (8mins) with President of Seychelles.
  • 4,391 Broadcast packages air in 140 nations & 15,000 articles in print and digital cover the mission (CGTN, Euronews, NY Post, SBS, Independent)
  • ABC’s Good Morning America live from the depths (ABC)
  • Scientists believe they found the ‘Twilight Zone’ in Indian Ocean (Global News)
  • Blazing a trail in marine conservation (Radio France International– article & podcast)
  • Ground breaking Indian Ocean Science Mission reaches end (CTV)


First Live deep ocean submersible broadcasts, subsea documentary series and newscasts

2019

First Descent: Live is broadcast from the Mission’s submersible deep beneath the waves to global audiences by Associated Press. Deep Ocean Live with Sky is the first live subsea documentary series and newscasts broadcasting 7 hours live, over 3 days from the Nekton’s mission to an audience of 110 million in 120 nations.


First Live Subsea Presidential Address

2019

President Danny Faure calls on the world to protect the world’s ocean from under the ocean in a Nekton submersible. It becomes the biggest news of the day globally.


Submarine STEM Live & Awards

2019

600,000 students engaged across 16 nations with live links and educational broadcasts from the Mission.

  • Submarine STEM wins the EdTech’s top BETT Award


Indian Ocean Taxonomy Symposium

2019

Nekton’s first marine taxonomy symposium held at South African Institute of Aquatic Biodiversity (SAIAB) accelerating identification of species discovered on First Descent Seychelles and training the next generation of early career researchers.

  • 23 people (13 experts, 10 trainers, 9 lectures). 16 Institutes collaborating on analysis and publications.


Oxford Fellowships for Seychellois Scientists

2019

The first Seychellois scientists begin Fellowships at the University of Oxford – in partnership with Seychelles Conservation and Climate Adaptation Trust (SeyCCAT) and the Africa Oxford Initiative (AfOx).


Maldives announce commitment to ocean protection and next Nekton mission

2019

President of Maldives announces commitment to protecting at least 20% of their ocean and undertaking the next Nekton mission to focus on a series of critical seamounts to inform marine spatial planning and sustainable fisheries management.


Yachts for Science Launched

2019

In partnership with Boat International, Yachts for Science is launched to match marine scientists with private vessels to undertake field research. Further details.

  • Calling All Superyacht owners and crew! Critical ocean research needs your help (Boat International)

Seychelles announce 30% protection of its waters

2020

Data from First Descent: Seychelles mission supports the Government of Seychelles and TNC's Marine Spatial Plan and their designation of protected areas and ongoing management.

  • Seychelles sets up protection for 30% of surrounding sea (Al Jazeera)
  • Seychelles achieves 30% Marine Conservation Commitment (Nature)


First Descent: Midnight Zone Mission

2020

With the Governments of Seychelles and Maldives, joint mission to develop regional scientific and ocean governance cooperation is announced to research and protect a series of key seamounts and inform the protection and management of 630,000km2of ocean. Mission details.

  • Scientists to dive into the Midnight Zone (ABC News),
  • Exploring the Indian Ocean’s Midnight Zone (Washington Post)
  • Midnight Zone mission to study the effects of climate change on deep seamarine life (Daily Mail)
  • Seychelles and Maldives Joint statement
  • First Descent: Midnight Zone (Launch film)


Omega Seamaster Nekton Edition Launched

2020

To mark Omega's partnership with Nekton, we jointly launch the OMEGA Seamaster Diver 300M Nekton Edition: a dive watch on a mission to save the seas. The unique timepiece includes an engraving of the Seamaster II submersible on the back that is deployed during First Descent missions.