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ETC. Photo of the day by Wayne Marien. Jesse Corsaut's “Asisbiz The Fisherman” on Fisherman's Wharf, Monterey. Photographed with a Nikon Z5 24mm-50mm, f16, 2 sec., ISO 8000. Submit your best horizontal photos. (Please include the location where the photo was taken in the caption.)

MBARI’s new rover promises to teach us about the mysterious deep ocean.

Good afternoon. 

Christopher Neely here, thinking about this mic drop of an introduction to a new study published Nov. 3 by a team at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, our own local band of mad scientists. 

“Extreme environments on Earth are understudied compared with extraterrestrial areas in our solar system,” the paper begins. “However, the influence of the deep ocean on our lives will likely have far greater impact than outer space in our lifetime.” Nothing like a bit of cross-discipline jostling among scientists. But this introduction seems to call out to the public as well: it’s great to consider high ideas like our place in the universe and the potential for extraterrestrial life, but don’t get too distracted from the vast amount of work that remains in understanding our own home. It reminds me of the quote used by Ralph Waldo Emerson to open his 1841 essay, “Self-Reliance.” “Ne te quæseveris extra.” Or, “Do not seek for things outside of yourself.” 

It can sometimes feel like we’re more obsessed with understanding outer space than understanding the Earth. As Cary Dickerman, a naval meteorologist told me a few weeks ago, we don’t even fully understand our atmosphere or phenomena such as lightning or tornadoes. If we don’t yet understand things we see on Earth pretty regularly, what chance do we have for the things we cannot see, such as the deep ocean? The deep ocean—depths of at least 6,600 feet—covers more than 65 percent of the earth. Yet, for humans, it has been difficult to gain much insight into this environment. In some ways, it’s more hostile to the modern tools of discovery and exploration than space: light doesn’t touch these depths, radio waves can’t travel well through water, and the pressure would crush a terrestrial life form like a truck. 

A lot of that is about to change thanks to a team at MBARI who have achieved a remarkable engineering feat 25 years in the making. In their research paper published earlier this month in Science Robotics, MBARI says its machine, the Benthic Rover II, can autonomously travel the deep ocean floor at depths up to nearly 20,000 feet on deployments that last one year. 

Weighing in at about 4,000 pounds on land (only about 150 pounds under water), the latest version of the BRII has been performing continuous 13,100-foot deep deployments since about 2015. The rover is dropped into the ocean about 140 miles off the Central Coast and takes about two hours to reach the deep ocean floor. From there, it moves autonomously about one mile per year, snapping photos of the ecosystem and its inhabitants, and taking in environmental data, such as oxygen, CO2 and acidification levels. 

“If you were able to be in the deep ocean, you would be in pitch darkness, the temperature would be just above freezing, and you'd have the weight of an SUV pressing on every square inch of your body,” MBARI’s Paul McGill tells me. “And despite these conditions, there's a whole myriad of amazing animals, many of which look like they were drawn by Dr. Seuss, that manage to not just survive, but to thrive and multiply in this extreme environment. And most people just have no awareness of this whatsoever.” 

Christine Huffard, another scientist who worked on the project, says it’s important to understand the deep sea because it is the largest habitable space on Earth. Thanks to the BRII, she says, the world has proven technology that can collect high quality data on the deep ocean floor for extended periods of time. 

“Every year we have our open house and people usually stop by who say, ‘Oh, well, I used to work at NASA … and our technology is difficult but this is harder,’” Huffard says. “So, it’s a serious engineering challenge but it’s not insurmountable and the skills and equipment are now there.” 

The BRII is undergoing maintenance before its next deployment, where a focal point will be the impact of carbon and CO2 on the deep ocean ecosystem. Huffard says the ocean’s sequestration abilities mean it acts like a sink for human carbon emissions. Much of that carbon sinks to deep ocean depths, and too much of it can mean increased acidity and deoxygenation, which are harmful to the habitat. 

What could that mean for ocean ecosystems closer to the surface and terrestrial ecosystems that rely on the ocean? The BRII will be working to find out. 

-Christopher Neely, staff writer, christopher@mcweekly.com

P.S. The Monterey County Gives! campaign is currently underway through Dec. 31. Today's Spotlight is YWCA Monterey County, which is raising money to support the increased need among clients who are still facing financial consequences from the pandemic, such as housing instability and food insecurity. Learn about their important work—and that of 169 other nonprofits—in this year's campaign, and please donate to support their efforts. 

BY THE NUMBERS

Newly eligible for a Covid-19 vaccine, 5 percent of Monterey County residents between the ages of 5 and 11 (or 2,376 total individuals) have received at least one dose as of Monday, Nov. 15.

LATEST LOCAL NEWS

An ADU startup promises to cut through the red tape. When it comes to solving the housing crisis, speed matters – it’s one thing to have a housing unit approved, it’s another for it to actually get built. A Silicon Valley-based startup factory-builds slick accessory dwelling units (ADUs) and puts a premium on speed

Hidden under Wharf 2, Monterey Abalone Company turns out prized shellfish. There are about 250 cages suspended below the wharf, where abalone live in their native habitat. The sturdy mesh cages are operated by ropes and pulleys, and can hold up to 3,000 abalone at any given time. 

A club promises magic, but delivers something real. The Black Girl Magic Club, a group started in 2019 at Rancho San Juan High School in Salinas, is a platform to share thoughts and experiences with people who understand what the other is going through.

SPONSORED: EAT+DRINK

Estéban Restaurant Indoor, Patio Dining & Take Out daily at 4:30. Call to reserve Hoilday Dine-in 3-course meal or order it To-go! Click here for menus. 700 Munras Ave., Monterey, 831-375-0176

Beach House at Lovers Point Indoor and Outdoor Dining plus Takeout Daily at 4:30pm. Click for menus/order. 375.2345, 620 Ocean View, PG.

Abalonetti on the Wharf Indoor & Outdoor Dining plus Takeout. Everyday 11:30am-8:30pm. Monterey's Best Calamari plus seafood, pasta & more. Click for menus/order. 373.1851

Melville Tavern Indoor, Patio Dining & Takeout Mon-Fri 11:30am, Sat & Sun Brunch at 10am. Happy Hour Sun-Thur 4-6pm 643.9525, 484 Washington St, Monterey.

Advertise here for $49 for 12 words / +$10 xlarge / +$1 add'l. word
Email sales@mcweekly.com or call 831-394-5656.
 
LOCAL INSPIRATION

LOCAL INSPIRATION of the day. Carmel artist Corinne Whitaker’s view of the underwater beauty surrounding us. Digital painting in a lighted box. Submit your Local Inspiration (digital art, music, multimedia, video, etc.; please include the medium you’ve used, and note when and where it was created).

After much work and anticipation, Pearl Hour has reopened its indoor bar, and just in time for cooler, wetter weather. They still have a glorious fire pit and beautifully appointed courtyard to keep you warm out back, but you can again enjoy lovingly crafted cocktails indoors

Mentally strong. The Salinas Union High School District hosts its fourth annual Mental Health Matters conference, virtually. Sessions start tonight at 6pm and continue through the week.

With a new artistic director, Camarata Singers prepare for a holiday concert. “Christmas with Camerata Singers” is classical music. The core of the program will be carols and lullabies by contemporary composer Conrad Susa – a collection of works from Spain, Mexico and Latin America.

BEST OF MONTEREY BAY® REAL ESTATE

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realestate.montereycountyweekly.com

  
IN CONTEXT

The disappearing vice president. A columnist asks ‘whatever happened to Kamala Harris?
-Los Angeles Times, Nov. 10, 2021

Portugal banned bosses from contacting employees after work. The legislation was conceived to improve work-life balance, and Portugal isn’t the only country modernizing its labor laws.
-The Guardian, Nov. 15, 2021

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HELPFUL DISTRACTIONS

Bumble BFF as an MLM problem. Multi-level marketing schemes are all over the internet, but finding them on a platform ostensibly for making friends one on one feels like an invasion of privacy.

Photo Gallery: Orcas make an unusual splash in Monterey Bay. “I haven’t seen something like this in probably eight to 10 years, this is absolutely incredible,” says Captain Todd of Sanctuary Cruises, based in Moss Landing.

We welcome your tips, comments and feedback. 

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