Photo courtesy: Nekton
Two Maldivian aquanauts have journeyed into the history books by becoming the first people from the world’s lowest-lying nation to descend deep into the twilight zone.
Marine biologist, Shafiya Naeem, director general of the Maldives Marine Research Institute, and research assistant colleague Farah Amjad were chosen as lead aquanauts on the maiden dive of the Nekton Maldives Mission.
The expedition is a joint initiative by UK-based Nekton and the Maldives government to map, sample and gather data on ocean health which can inform policy makers both in the Maldives and beyond as the climate crisis deepens. Virtually no images exist of marine life in Maldivian waters below 30 metres.
The aquanauts launched from the mission mothership RV Odyssey off Laamu Atoll and, in an impromptu gesture of national pride, raised the flag of the Maldives as the Omega Seamaster II three-person submersible rolled out on deck.
They were piloted by American Kimly Do on a journey to investigate the wall of coral and marine life along the east coast of Lammu at varying depths from 250 metres, through a 120 metre deep survey to a final transect at 60 metres.
The Maldives team knows expectations are high. Their nation is the lowest lying country on earth and is already experiencing storm surges and so-called coral bleaching events – when corals which act as natural sea defences are literally boiled to death by rising sea temperatures, sparked by global warming.