The Mission

The Nekton Maldives Mission, is the first systematic survey and sampling of the Maldives from the surface to 1000 metre depths. Almost nothing is known about what is below 30 metres, the vast majority of the country.

In partnership with the Government of Maldives, the Mission aims to help create extensive new marine protected areas and ensure the ocean continues to protect and provide for the Maldivian people.

Field Operations: 4th September to 7th October 2022

Taxonomic Workshop: February 2023

First Results: Mid 2023

Final Results: End 2023

Read the cruise report here.

The Maldives

Size: 923,322 km2 (including ocean) – over two and half times larger than Germany (357,021 km2)

Population: 560,000 (2022)

Capital: Malé (with about 200,000 inhabitants)

Geography: The Maldives are located on the central part of a submerged ocean mountain range called the Laccadive-Chagos Ridge stretching from the north to central Indian Ocean. The Maldives is the flattest country in the world with no rivers and no hills. Its highest point (on Villingili Island) is only 2.4metres above sea level, but the average ground level is just around one and half metres.

The Atolls: The Maldives is a chain of 26 coral atolls including the largest atoll in the world. The Atolls are the summits of the remains of a chain of sunken volcanoes formed around 60 million years ago. Of the 1,190 islands in the Maldives, only 200 are inhabited. Only about 30 islands are home to more than 1,000 people.

The International Team

From UK, Seychelles, India, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Spain, Greece, Netherlands, USA, Ireland.


  • Professor Lucy Woodall, Nekton Principal Scientist, University of Oxford, Department of Biology
  • Dr Paris Stefanoudis, Senior Postdoctoral Researcher, University of Oxford, Department of Biology
  • Sheena Talma, Nekton Science and Knowledge Exchange Manager,
  • Nuria Rico Seijo, Nekton Laboratory Manager,
  • Alex Rogers, Science Director, REV Ocean

Knowledge Exchange Expedition Team (with Maldivian Aquanauts)

  • Professor Louise Allcock, National University of Ireland,
  • Molly Rivers, PhD Candidate, University of Aberdeen
  • Dr Asha de Vos, OceansWell, Sri Lanka
  • Shri N. Saravanane Narayanane, Centre for Marine Living Resources and Ecology, Ministry of Earth Sciences, India
  • Dr. Sherine Sonia Cubelio, Marine Living Resources and Ecology, Ministry of Earth Sciences, India
  • Dr. Sendhil Kumar Ramaiyan, Marine Living Resources and Ecology, Ministry of Earth Sciences, India)

Media Team

  • Sandy MacIntyre, Nekton Media Director
  • Sarah Hammond, Nekton Creative Content Producer
  • Tim Curtis, Mission VJ, Video East Productions

Marine Operations

  • Oliver Steeds, Mission Director, Chief Executive, Nekton
  • Mike Pownall, Head of Marine Operations, Nekton,
  • Denise Swanborn, Expedition Manager, Nekton
  • Kimly Doh, Chief Submersible Pilot, Omega Seamaster II
  • Ryan Palmer, ROV Pilot, The South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity (SAIAB)
  • Dr Anthony Bernard and Dr Kaylee Smit, South African National Biodiversity Institute (SAIAB), Landers and Baited Remote Underwater Video systems (BRUVs)

Patrick Lahey, Troy Engen (Triton Submarines) and Leighton Rolley (REV Ocean): Submersile Pilots, DSV Aurelia

Mission Technology

The most advanced submersibles and subsea technology deployed to lead the first systematic exploration of the Maldives


  • Omega Seamaster II: Triton 3k3 (3 person, 3300ft/1000metre depth), equipped with a suite of five different cameras for documenting biodiversity, scanning sonar, ultra-short baseline positioning systems, manipulator arm and biobox for sampling. Endurance: eight hours; Life support: 96 hours. Mission Partner: Omega
  • DSV Aurelia: Triton 7500/3 (three person, 7500ft/2,286metre depth), the world’s deepest diving submergence vehicle (DSV) with a transparent acrylic sphere (300mm pressure hull thickness). Equipped with six different camera systems, scanning sonar, manipulator and suction sampling, bioboxes and sensors. Endurance: 10+hours; Life Support: 96hours. Strategic Partner: REV Ocean.

Remotely Operated Vehicles

  • SAAB Seaeye Falcon: 300 metre depth, equipped with five cameras for biodiversity documentation and sampling systems. Mission’s Strategic Partner: SAAB Seaeye.
  • REX: 150 metre depths, equipped with four cameras, ultra-short baseline positioning systems, manipulator and cutting arm. Collaborating Partner: UK Natural History Museum.


  • R/V Odyssey: combines state of the art oceanographic, exploration, scientific and filmmaking capabilities including seabed mapping system, wet labs, dry labs, on-board medical facility, hyperbaric chamber, a sophisticated Mission-Control Centre, as well as a broadcast-quality studio. Formerly, M/V Alucia, previously owned by Ocean X, the vessel supported the successful search for the wreckage of Air France flight 447, the filming of the first giant squid in the wild and BBC Blue Planet II. Prior to Ocean X, she was the support ship for the French submersible Nautile on hundreds of sub dives including the first dives on Titanic in 1987. Mission’s Expedition Partner: Ocean Conservation, Exploration & Education Foundation (OCEEF).

Other Research Equipment includes:

  • Multibeam Mapping: Teledyne Reson, 3000 metre depth and contributing data to Seabed 2030. Strategic Partners: Teledyne Marine.
  • BRUVs (Baited Remote Underwater Video system) – pelagic and benthic systems deployed at different depths from shallow to 1000 meters with bait attracting large predators and communities in specific locations. Strategic Partner: The South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity, SAIAB.
  • Neuston nets: sampling the neuston layer - between air and water – specifically for zooplankton, the base of the marine food web. Sampling day and night to assess the productivity of the layer and to understand the activity and health of life within the water column.
  • Tucker Trawl: opens at three different depths or multiple times at different depths. Required to sample the interface between the seabed and the water column . This ‘Benthic-Pelagic coupling’ is where habitats come together and very little is known about it across the entire Indian Ocean.
  • CTD (Conductivity, Temperature, Depth): Plus other sensors deployed to determine the parameters of the water column including oxygen, nutrients, temperatures (vulnerability of hard corals), identification of deeper water and upwellings (more nutrients).