NEKTON FIRST DESCENT MIDNIGHT ZONE HAS BEEN POSTPONED
Although there are no cases of coronavirus-Covid 19 aboard the Expedition’s research vessel the DSSV Pressure Drop, the decision was made to cancel the expedition.
Nekton, the Governments of Seychelles and the Maldives remain committed to undertaking this important research and the Expedition will be rescheduled when the situation allows.
“Due to the unprecedented global situation and overwhelming concerns about the COVID-19 virus, we have made the decision to cancel the Expedition. We are very disappointed, but we know it is the right thing to do. We remain fully committed to our work in the Indian Ocean and look forward to resuming our research as soon as the time is right.”, said Oliver Steeds, Nekton’s Mission Director.
Nekton First Descent Midnight Zone and Covid-19
We are taking the risk of coronavirus (COVID-19) extremely seriously and are closely monitoring global and local developments. We are following the guidelines of the World Health Organisation, the Government of Maldives, Seychelles and the UK. We review the situation on a daily, often hourly, basis.
We are aware this is an ongoing, changing situation and we are continuing to work at the invitation and directives of the Governments of Seychelles and the Maldives.
We recognise that as the situation changes, either in the coming days leading up to the Expedition or during, then we will respond to the directives of Seychelles, the Maldives, WHO and/or the situation aboard as required.
We have reviewed the currents risks and remain committed to the mission and are currently proceeding under the invitation and direction of the Governments of Maldives and Seychelles.
We have implemented a strict policy relating to Covid-19 for participants - they will all be screened before they board and we have established procedures for mitigating and managing symptoms and outbreak aboard. We are following the guidelines of the World Health Organisation, including related to vessels, along with recommendations from the US Academic Fleet. We have been in touch with all key partners in Seychelles and the Maldives to develop and implement procedures around the Mission and the vessel's Emergency Response Plans. We have a number of medics aboard, a dedicated hospital, additional medical supplies, 24/7 remote medical support and a range of other systems and procedures in place.
12th March 2020
First Descent Midnight Zone launch celebrated with The Commonwealth
There was a packed crowd at the stunning Marlborough House, the home of the Commonwealth Secretariat on March 4th to hear about the Nekton's Midnight Zone expedition. In front of a panel of esteemed guests including Baroness Scotland, the High Commissioner of the Maldives, Her Excellency Farah Faizal and High Commissioner of Seychelles, His Excellency Derick Ally, plans for the next expedition were presented. Nekton Mission Director Oliver Steeds, Principal Scientist Dr Lucy Woodall, and Seychellois Scientist Sheena Talma explained the science and importance of studying seamounts and talked about our knowledge exchange programme. It was an uplifting gathering of people committed to ocean protection.
Would you like to join us on a deep dive on our expedition?
The two-day online auction begins at midnight on February 26th, 2020, for adventurers from across the globe to bid on the world’s most exclusive travel experience.
The highest bidder will travel to the Maldives and board Nekton’s manned submersible alongside Victor Vescovo, diving down to 3,000 meters below sea level where biodiversity peaks to visit an unexplored seamount in the Indian Ocean’s Midnight Zone.
The experience also includes stays at some of the world’s most exclusive luxury resorts, the opportunity to conduct a live deep-sea broadcast, and the chance to help create the first maps of uncharted seamounts. The highest bidder will also receive a documentary film detailing the entire journey.
All net proceeds will be re-invested into Nekton to support their ongoing conservation efforts. Nekton undertakes these missions to galvanize the protection and management of our oceans, aiming to support the protection of at least 30% of the ocean by 2030.
Exploration Beneath the Waves
On the 19th February, our partners Project Zero hosted the Exploration Beneath the Waves ambassadors evening. Held at the Amazonico London, in a room resembling the inside of a submarine with portholes looking out into the ocean, Oliver's talk took everyone on a journey into the deep ocean and what we can find as we descend. The night also celebrated the unveiling of Harland Miller's 'Save the Penguin' artwork.
Seychelles and Maldives announce expedition to explore Indian Ocean.
First Descent: Midnight Zone is a 35 day mission to support the sustainable governance of the Seychelles and Maldivian ocean including the protection of 629,000km2. A team of 50 international scientists, technicians, media and crew will be carrying out research to gather critical data to define conservation and management priorities and the designation of Marine Protected Areas. The expedition starts in Seychelles on March 16th 2020.
Research is focussed on seamounts in the Midnight Zone. The Midnight Zone describes ocean dpths between 1000ms and 4000ms. While biomass peaks in surface waters, biodiversity peaks within the Midnight Zone. The expedition will undertake the first research of seamounts in this area under the Indian Ocean. With high levels of biological endemism, seamounts are often described as "undersea Galapagoses", home to species found nowhere else on the planet.
To support a healthy, resilient and prosperous ocean, scientists are calling for 30% of the ocean to be protected. Currently only 2% is strongly protected and 8% is designated for protection.
First Descent: Midnight Zone is one of a series of expeditions that Nekton are carrying out across the Indian Ocean documenting changes beneath the waves in a bid to catalyse 30% protection by 2030.
Nekton Lecture At The RGS
On 21st October we gave a talk at the prestigious Royal Geographical Society in London on First Descent Seychelles.
Speakers at the event included Dr. Lucy Woodall - Principal scientist of Nekton, Sheena Talma - Seychellois Marine Biologist and Oliver Steeds - Mission director and CEO of Nekton. Initial scientific observations regarding seabed surveys and the interconnectivity between shallow-water reefs and deeper habitats were outlined and discussed by Dr Lucy Woodall. Sheena Talma gave a thoughtful and emotive talk regarding her experience on the Nekton research ship and her experience of collecting samples in a submersible. Oliver Steeds gave a full rundown of the pioneering technology and equipment gathered together by the small research charity through partners to make the expedition possible, and the technical challenges that at times resembled controlling the Bolshoi ballet on strings which was required to stream live to the world from under the ocean
An audience of 650 packed the lecture hall to hear the lecture alongside President Danny Faure of Seychelles who was also a surprise guest speaker. The president has worked closely with Nekton during the past year and visited the research ship during the expedition to giving the first live subsea presidential address regarding climate change from a submersible. After visiting Nekton HQ in Oxford the previous Friday to see the scientist’s progress on the samples and seabed surveys he was incredibly excited by the progress of the team. Other notable attendees include Rt Hon Patricia Scotland, Commonwealth secretary-general and H.E. Mr. Derick Ally, Ambassador of the Republic of Seychelles.
President Danny Faure of Seychelles visit to Nekton HQ
We were delighted to welcome President Danny Faure in our lab and office in Oxford on Friday 18th October. He met the whole Nekton team and was told about our ongoing research from our expedition to Seychelles. He examined some of the samples and was shown the first 3D maps of the seabeds of the islands. He also met with Seychellois scientist Sheen Talma who is currently carrying out research in Nekton's labs.
New scientists in the Nekton Lab
Nico Fassbender has joined Nekton today working as Research Assistant. Before moving to Oxford Nico worked as a science officer for the conservation charity Global Vision International in Seychelles. Originally from Monchengladbach in Germany, Nico studied Marine Biology and Zoology at Bangor University in Wales. In spring 2019 he was a member of Nekton’s science team on our expedition in Seychelles and is delighted to have joined us in Oxford.
Sara Winter is working as an intern in our Oxford lab. She recently finished her masters in marine biology at James Cook University after studying at Zurich University. She will be with Nekton for three months and is currently busy analysing the video data from Seychelles.
Teledyne marine technology workshop, San Diego
Mission Director Oliver Steeds gave the keynote speech at our technology partner, Teledyne Marine's Technology event in San Diego on 7th October 2019. Our Seychelles expedition would not have been possible without the "sea of solutions" provided by Teledyne that enabled us to carry out our vital science research. Their technological solutions were key to our science, safety and operations.
Technology & Broadcast: We are so proud and delighted that Associated Press has been awarded the prestigious IBC Innovation Award for their undersea reporting during our First Descent Mission in Seychelles. This technical award has innovative storytelling and creativity at its heart and was made possible thanks to the partnership between AP, Nekton, Sonarydyne, Live U and Inmarsat. This partnership helped to tell the story of the ocean in a profound new way and we are hugely grateful to our partners for their faith and commitment to pioneering live submersible broadcasting.
Seychelles Mission - Building a legacy
A key part of our mission and partnership with the Government of Seychelles is to develop the skills, knowledge and networks within marine science and ocean management. The Nekton team are leading a training workshop in Seychelles from 23th to 27th of September that will include video transects, data analysis, ocean literacy and media skills, scientific writing, publication and sample curation.
Nekton on the world stage
From the Global Exploration Summit in Lisbon to WEF Africa in Cape Town and from the NYC Explorers Clubto the FT Weekend Festival, the Do Lectures, the Commonwealth ICT & Innovation Summit and London’s Science Museum it has been a busy few months for Mission Director Oliver Steeds and Principal Scientist Lucy Woodall as they have travelled the world to share word about the discoveries and successes of the Seychelles Mission and the need to protect at least 30% of our ocean by 2030. Keep an eye for upcoming talks and events including a prestigious lecture at the Royal Geographical Society on 21stOctoberand with our partners Teledyne Marine in San Diego, London Shipping Week with Inmarsat and the Marine Measurement Forum with Sonardyne.
Seychelles mission - Accelerating data analysis
To accelerate analysis and publication, we've gathered experts together for a 2-week long taxonomic workshop in Grahamstown at the South African Institute of Aquatic Biodiversity to identify organisms that were collected during our field operations. The second week was devoted to training the next generation of early career researchers to taxonomy. The workshop in numbers:
- 23 people (13 experts + 10 trainees) participated either physically present or remotely
- 9 lectures were given (including five remotely via skype)
- 4 hands-on practical sessions IDying soft corals, sponges, brittle stars and hydrozoans
- 16 institutes involved so far with 4 more that are going to be involved post-workshop
Oxford fellowships for Seychellois scientists
We're delighted to have welcomed the recipients of the AfOx-Nekton Marine Science Fellowships at Oxford over the summer. In partnership with Seychelles Conservation and Climate Adaptation Trust (SeyCCAT) and the Africa Oxford Initiative (AfOx), scientists from Seychelles have been in Oxford conducting ongoing research and analysis from the Seychelles Expedition.