We come across some pretty face-melting biology as we explore the ocean, and, with a few notable exceptions, most of the coolest creatures aren't ones for which we were intentionally looking. We never know what will drift past our cameras, but we're glad the creatures below found their way into our orbit. If our luck with beautiful biology means one thing, it's the final nail in the coffin of the idea that the deep ocean is a desert - the thriving ecosystems we come across every day prove that some of the most thriving and lush regions of the Earth remain totally unexplored.
Without further ado, here are our top 5 favorite ocean drifters (called such because they happened to drift into view, not because they neccessarily drift in currents) from the ECOGIG cruise so far, our tribute to the wonders that the deep sea has to offer.
5. Ray gets up close and personal with Hercules
4. Flytrap Anemone, so named due to its uncanny resemblance to the Venus flytrap plant
3. Stunning Siphonophore: A colonial organism (see more photos here)
2. This Fish (looking oddly Muppet-like)
1. Haunting Vampire Squid (Learn more here)
This cruise is part of a larger research program focused on examining the ecosystem-level response to oil and gas in the Gulf of Mexico. The research group leading the cruise is called the Ecosystem Impacts of Oil and Gas Inputs into the Gulf of Mexico (ECOGIG) Consortium, which is made up of scientists from a wide variety of disciplines studying current flow, ocean chemistry, microbial activity, deep-sea coral communities, and everything in between.