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It is simple to believe that scientists already know everything there is to know about Earth in an era of easily accessible information and technological advancements. But the ocean is still a great mystery. Up to 5% of it, according to UNESCO estimates, has been studied. A group of international researchers led by scientists Drs. Javier Sellanes and Erin Easton travelled to a remote area of the southeast Pacific in January and February of this year. The team was arranged by the Schmidt Ocean Institute.

They started discovering bizarre new worlds there that were believed to be undiscovered elsewhere. More than a hundred new species may have been found thanks to the vital assistance of an underwater robot.

The crew of the Falkor (too) found many different species in underwater mountain ranges, better known as ridges, off the coast of Chile with the help of the remotely operated vehicle ROV SuBastian, a robot that can dive to previously unreachable depths of 14,000 feet. More than 200 seamounts, or individual mountains formed by volcanic activity, can be found in the Salas y Gómez, Nazca, and Juan Fernandez ridges. A seemingly alien underwater community, with long-lived, slowly-growing, and slowly reproducing species that are unique to each seamount, finds refuge there. These species are particularly susceptible to harm from both oceanic and human forces.

The team thinks they have found new species of cactus-like sea urchins and squat lobsters, which have arms longer than their bodies, among the specimens gathered during the expedition. Additionally, they have discovered vertebrates like coffinfish, or Chaunacops fish. The coffinfish spends most of its life immobile on the seafloor, which allows it to live very deep underwater.

Even though the pictures of the vividly coloured, alien-looking marine life are captivating in and of themselves, the information gathered by the expedition will be extremely useful for conservation efforts. Although the majority of the ocean is outside of any one country's borders, Chile outlawed bottom trawling on seamounts under its jurisdiction in 2016. Therefore, to preserve these enchanted oceanic mountain ranges, international cooperation is required. With the help of this expedition, it is hoped that the UN's 2023 High Seas Treaty will establish a Marine Protected Area. This will further limit bottom trawling, a type of fishing where the net is used to indiscriminately catch species from the seafloor, tearing up coral reefs in the process.

Scientists will attempt over the coming years to verify that the samples gathered by the ROV SuBastian are, in fact, members of hitherto undiscovered species. The crew of the Falkor (too) is kept busy by the ongoing second expedition to the seamounts. We can all acknowledge how much beauty is still hidden beneath the sea's surface in the interim. 

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