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Scientists To Uncover Secrets Of The Sea


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Scientists to uncover secrets of the sea

A team of research scientists is about to get up close and personal with some of the world's most mysterious and misunderstood creatures.

For the first time in history, researchers from around the world will use manned submersibles to explore Australia's surrounding deep seas in the hope of finding new species living in the murky depths.

As part of the project, known as Deep Australia, scientists will use special submersibles to travel one kilometre beneath the waves.

Previously manned research in Australia has relied on divers using rebreathers which only go down to around 100 metres.

The submersibles have special mechanical arms which can be used to collect specimens, and state-of-the-art cameras will record every detail of the underwater adventure.

Lead researcher Professor Justin Marshall said that they would be hunting the giant squid and deep sea jellies, which can grow to the size of a bus.

They also expected to discover a range of new species.

"We only have a very limited idea of what really lives down in the depths around Australia," Prof Marshall said.

"It's not bragging to say that we will discover new life."

Expedition leader Michael McDowell said only five per cent of the world's oceans have so far been explored, and that scientists estimate up to 10 million species are still undiscovered.

The project suffered an initial setback when scientific equipment to be used on the 56 metre, $16 million vessel was damaged during Hurricane Katrina.

However, the ship, which is now in Seattle in the US, is currently undergoing a complete re-fit.

The first of a number of expeditions is expected to get underway in late 2007, with Osprey Reef off the coast of far north Queensland and the outer slope of the Great Barrier Reef tipped to be the first areas to be explored.

Other potential sites include deep sea canyons off the South Australian and West Australian coasts, and sea mountains off New South Wales and Victoria.

The project has been jointly funded by the Australian Research Council, University of Queensland, and a number of private parties.

Future investors will have the chance to accompany the scientists on some of their research trips.

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