Into the abyss

Shipwrecks, new species, and dead zones: 9 biggest deep-sea discoveries of 2022

Alfred Wegener Institute / PS124 AWI OFOBS team

The deeper you go, the stranger the oceans get.

Peculiar lifeforms and toxic environments are just part of everyday life in some of the darkest, coldest, places on Earth.

Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust

Every year, scientists record new oddities in the deep sea — often provoking more questions about its depths than answers.

Here are 9 deep-sea discoveries that made headlines in 2022:

Museums Victoria/Ben Healley

9. Greetings, traveler!

Though some of its cousins prefer shallow waters, this newly-discovered snailfish species thrives in the deepest reaches of the Pacific Ocean.

Dr Thom Linley, Professor Alan Jamieson

Dr Thom Linley

Paraliparis selti was spotted drifting through the Atacama Trench, around four miles below sea level.

Its existence confirms how adaptable snailfishes are — over 400 known species live in every ocean on Earth.

8. Far from home?

The elusive Greenland shark is primarily known as a cold-water dweller, but researchers recorded one in tropical waters for the first time this year.

Hemming1952 via Wikimedia Commons

Hemming1952 via Wikimedia Commons

Off the coast of Belize, an individual that looked suspiciously like a Greenland shark was captured during a tagging expedition.

It could be a fluke, but the researchers hypothesize that Greenland sharks — or perhaps a hybrid species — typically dwell in deep, tropical waters.

7. Watery grave

The remains of a WWII destroyer escort, the USS Samuel B. Roberts, were discovered at record-breaking depths this year in the Philippine Sea.

U.S. Navy via Wikimedia Commons

U.S. Navy via Wikimedia Commons

At a whopping 4.2 miles below sea level, the vessel surpassed the previously deepest-known shipwreck by 426 meters.

That title was formerly held by the wreck of the USS Johnston, which is 3.7 miles below sea level.

6. Breaking the ice

Meanwhile, off the coast of Antarctica, a research team located the final remains of Ernest Shackleton’s ship, Endurance.

Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust

Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales

Shackleton’s Antarctic expedition ended when Endurance became lodged in Weddell Sea ice and slowly sank in 1915.

The shipwreck is located just four miles from where the vessel went under.

5. Home base

The depths of the Weddell Sea held other surprises this year — such as a giant network of ice fish nests discovered during a scientific expedition.

Alfred Wegener Institute / PS124 AWI OFOBS team

Alfred Wegener Institute / PS124 AWI OFOBS team

The network spans 92.5 square miles of seafloor — more than four times the area of Manhattan.

To date, it’s the largest continuous deep sea fish nest cluster ever recorded, with 60 million active nests.

4. Two peas in a pod

Deep sea hermit crabs like Pagurodofleinia are especially fond of the friendly anemones that hitch a ride on their shells — such as the newly-discovered Stylobates calcifer.

Yoshikawa et. al/The Biological Bulletin

Yoshikawa et. al/The Biological Bulletin

This particular pair was recorded in a scientific report for the first time this year.

Together, the anemone and hermit crab make a home on the bottom of the Pacific Ocean near Japan.

3. Deadly dip

You wouldn’t want to swim in this brine pool deep beneath the Red Sea — it contains no oxygen, and most organisms can’t survive in its super-salinated waters.

NEOM

NEOM

This year, a group of brine pools beneath the Gulf of Aqaba were described for the first time.

Extreme environments like these could help us understand the origins of life on Earth, and possibly other planets.

2. Ghosts of the deep

This transparent eel, previously unknown to science, was just one of several peculiar creatures documented during a 35-day scientific expedition.

Museums Victoria/Ben Healley

Museums Victoria/Ben Healley

A team on board the research vessel Investigator sailed around Australia’s remote Cocos (Keeling) Islands in October and November.

They created the first seafloor map of the region, and brought back specimens of pancake-shaped flatfish, fanged eels, stilt-legged spiderfish, and more.

1. Heavyweight champ

This deep-sea isopod is in the same taxonomic order as pill bugs — but it’s much, much larger than any roly-poly you’d see crawling under a rock.

Dr Ming-Chih Huang, Journal of Natural History

Dr Ming-Chih Huang, Journal of Natural History

Found off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, this jumbo-sized isopod is roughly 26 cm (10.2 inches) long.

Its harmless to humans, and was described this year for the first time as a new species of Bathynomus.

INVERSE celebrates the best of the best in entertainment, gaming, science, and technology of 2022. Go to the INVERSE Awards hub.

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