All–Female Aquanaut Crew Selected to Explore Maldivian Waters
Nekton has announced that two Maldivian women will be making history alongside eight other members of the international science team in the Nekton Maldives Mission.
Shafiya Naeem, Director General of Maldives Marine Research, and Farah Amjad, Research Assistant to the mission, have been selected to be part of the operation’s first descent with pilot Kimly Do.
The UK marine research institute, Nekton, is working in partnership with the Maldivian Government to conduct the first systematic survey and sampling of the ocean surrounding the Maldives from the surface to 1000 meters below sea level.
Shafiya Naeem stated that their “objective during our submersible dives is to discover and better understand what our waters contain, so that we can begin to protect what lives there, and safeguard the environment more meaningfully.”
She also added that they have “40 sharks and 18 ray species at the apex of the food chain in our ocean, and for the first time, we will be able to identify their relative abundance at depth -which is a critical indicator to determine ocean health.”
At depths around 120 meters, the scientists expect to locate the old beach line from 20,000 years ago when sea levels swelled following the ice melts from the Last Glacial Maximum. Part of their mission is to investigate how ocean life has since adapted to the rising sea levels.
Farah Amjad explained that the submersible’s transparent pressure sphere will provide the perfect platform for observing the deep-sea biodiversity, and she noted that with the help of cameras and the advanced technologies for sampling, they will be able to explore and discover new parts of the country for the first time.
“One of the highlights will be mapping and documenting life on the first seamount in the Northern Indian Ocean, descending down the underwater mountain’s flanks to 1000 meters” explained Professor Lucy Woodall, Nekton Principal Scientist, Department of Biology, University of Oxford, who is leading Nekton’s international scientific team. Of the 100,000 seamounts above 1000 meters across the global ocean, only 300 have ever been biologically sampled to date.
The Maldives is a big ocean state that is made up of 99% ocean and just 1% land, but almost nothing has been explored beneath 50 meters, therefore, this survey will be the first of its kind.
Featured Images: Nekton