Seychelles' OceanX expedition in the Indian Ocean took place from January 14 to February 11, 2024. / Photo: AFP

Nineteen Seychellois researchers who departed on January 14 on a mission to discover their country's oceanic environment, have returned on February 11 with three major breakthroughs.

For the first time in Seychelles' history, they dived to the deepest recorded depth of 1,500 metres in the Indian Ocean and executed a dedicated megafauna’s (large animals) survey of the region via helicopter.

They also made another dive with a remotely operated vehicle reaching depths of 4,600 metres, marking the deepest dive in the country’s history.

Their third major accomplishment involved the 3D mapping and deep-sea exploration of some12,000 square kilometres of Seychelles’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

Understanding the ocean

This latest OceanX expedition, conducted in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture, Climate Change and Environment aimed to provide crucial data for future decision-making to support the preservation of Seychelles' oceanic environment.

“The mission aimed to develop a comprehensive understanding of the Seychelles ocean ecosystem, assess ocean conditions, and build knowledge among local scientists to promote marine conservation and future climate decisions,” Mattie Rodrigue, science programme director for OceanX said.

Speaking on board the vessel docked in Port Victoria, Rodrigue stated that the mission's report would be submitted in May.

“The main objective was to study the habitats of the deep sea as they are outside the range of what humans can see."

The crew observed multiple types of deep-sea sharks, whales and dolphines among other creatures.

"We are recording the different habitats at different levels – 500 metres, 750 metres, 1,000 metres, and 1,500 metres... We were getting a full picture of how the ocean is and establishing the biodiversity,” Rodrigue added.

“I was stunned by the diversity of deep-sea healthy corals. Now we are in the process of finalising the data and will share them with the government for their future plan to manage the areas.

Submersible live-stream

During the expedition, all 19 young Seychellois had a chance to do a ROV (remotely operated vehicle) dive, which was also performed across the islands to better understand the fauna at these depths.

Researchers live-streamed a deep-sea submersible dive from the mission to the 2024 World Economic Forum in Davos, transporting audiences 300 metres below the surface.

Highlighting the historic achievements, Rodney Quatre, director general for biodiversity and conservation management at the Ministry of Agriculture, Climate Change and Environment, said the mission achieved its aim to connect the world with the ocean.

"Three Seychellois were able to arrive at 1,000 metres and discover our ocean. We now have a better idea how the situation is out there and we will be able to better plan to conserve our ocean,” he said.

The data and findings from the OceanX expedition gathered through immersive experiences with the aid of next-gen technology will form a foundation for Seychelles’ ocean conservation and protection.

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TRT Afrika and agencies