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A deep dive into Indian Ocean to check its health

Updated : April 15, 2019 12:20 PM IST

The submersible dropped from the ocean's surface faster than I had expected. With a loud "psssssss" the air escaped from the ballast tanks and the small craft suddenly tilted forward.

Within seconds, aquanaut Robert Carmichael and I (David Keyton) were enveloped by a vibrant shade of blue, watching streaks of sunlight pierce the water's surface. Soon a large manta ray appeared from the darkness below, gently gliding toward our small craft before vanishing into the distance.

The dive took place off a coral atoll called St. Joseph in the outer islands of Seychelles on a mission to explore the Indian Ocean. This body of water is poorly studied and few scientists have ever ventured deeper than the maximum scuba depth of 100 feet.

For more than a month researchers from Nekton, a British-led scientific research charity, have been using submersibles to dive deep below the waves to document the ocean's health.

Oceans cover over two-thirds of the Earth's surface but remain, for the most part, unexplored.

Their role in regulating our climate and the threats they face are underestimated by many people, so scientific missions are crucial to take stock of the health of underwater ecosystems.

Fishing is no longer the sole cause. Man-made pollution, global warming and the acidification of the oceans are new challenges.

As the oceans slowly soak up heat from the atmosphere, marine species will be affected in different ways. Some will adapt. Some will migrate to cooler waters. Others will disappear, leaving a gap in ecosystems that have existed for millennia.

The last rays of sunlight cross the sky after sunset while at sea in the waters off Seychelles, Monday, April 1, 2019. For more than a month researchers from Nekton, a British-led scientific research charity, have been using submersibles to dive deep below the waves to document changes taking place beneath the waves that could affect billions of people in the surrounding region over the coming decades. (AP Photo/David Keyton)
The last rays of sunlight cross the sky after sunset while at sea in the waters off Seychelles, Monday, April 1, 2019. For more than a month researchers from Nekton, a British-led scientific research charity, have been using submersibles to dive deep below the waves to document changes taking place beneath the waves that could affect billions of people in the surrounding region over the coming decades. (AP Photo/David Keyton)
A scientist processes a coral sample retrieved from the Indian Ocean in the waters off Seychelles, Saturday, April 6, 2019.  (AP Photo/David Keyton)
A scientist processes a coral sample retrieved from the Indian Ocean in the waters off Seychelles, Saturday, April 6, 2019.  (AP Photo/David Keyton)
Second officer Konstantin Afanasjev studies the chart of St. Joseph Island in Seychelles during his night watch on board the Ocean Zephyr, Thursday, April 11, 2019. The Ocean Zephyr is the mothership of the British-based Nekton Mission which is exploring the Indian Ocean. Scientists hope to document changes taking place beneath the waves that could affect billions of people in the surrounding region over the coming decades. (AP Photo/David Keyton)
Second officer Konstantin Afanasjev studies the chart of St. Joseph Island in Seychelles during his night watch on board the Ocean Zephyr, Thursday, April 11, 2019. The Ocean Zephyr is the mothership of the British-based Nekton Mission which is exploring the Indian Ocean. Scientists hope to document changes taking place beneath the waves that could affect billions of people in the surrounding region over the coming decades. (AP Photo/David Keyton)
A manta ray swims near the submersible during a dive off the coast of the island of St. Joseph in Seychelles, Monday, April 8, 2019. (AP Photo/David Keyton)
A manta ray swims near the submersible during a dive off the coast of the island of St. Joseph in Seychelles, Monday, April 8, 2019. (AP Photo/David Keyton)
The manned submersible emerges from the water after a dive off the coast of the island of St. Joseph in Seychelles, Monday, April 8, 2019. (AP Photo/David Keyton)
The manned submersible emerges from the water after a dive off the coast of the island of St. Joseph in Seychelles, Monday, April 8, 2019. (AP Photo/David Keyton)
Associated Press reporter David Keyton, left, receives instructions ahead of his 400 feet dive into the waters off the coast of the island of St. Joseph, Seychelles, Monday, April 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Toby Goode)
Associated Press reporter David Keyton, left, receives instructions ahead of his 400 feet dive into the waters off the coast of the island of St. Joseph, Seychelles, Monday, April 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Toby Goode)
Submersible pilot Robert Carmichael looks out of the submersible as he navigates strong currents during a dive to 400 feet below the surface on Monday, April 8, 2019. Able to operate down to 1,000 feet, these manned submersibles give scientists a unique understanding of changes in habitats as sunlight diminishes through the different layers of the ocean. (AP Photo/David Keyton)
Submersible pilot Robert Carmichael looks out of the submersible as he navigates strong currents during a dive to 400 feet below the surface on Monday, April 8, 2019. Able to operate down to 1,000 feet, these manned submersibles give scientists a unique understanding of changes in habitats as sunlight diminishes through the different layers of the ocean. (AP Photo/David Keyton)
A manned submersible explores the seabed off the island of St. Joseph in Seychelles, Monday, April 8, 2019. (AP Photo/David Keyton)
A manned submersible explores the seabed off the island of St. Joseph in Seychelles, Monday, April 8, 2019. (AP Photo/David Keyton)
Associated Press reporter, David Keyton poses for a photograph inside a submersible at around 400 feet below the surface off the coast of the island of St. Joseph in Seychelles, Monday, April 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Robert Carmichael)
Associated Press reporter, David Keyton poses for a photograph inside a submersible at around 400 feet below the surface off the coast of the island of St. Joseph in Seychelles, Monday, April 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Robert Carmichael)
Associated Press reporter, David Keyton, boards a submersible off the coast of the island of St. Joseph in Seychelles, Monday, April 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Steve Barker)
Associated Press reporter, David Keyton, boards a submersible off the coast of the island of St. Joseph in Seychelles, Monday, April 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Steve Barker)
Associated Press reporter, David Keyton, looks out of a submersible at around 400 feet below the surface off the coast of the island of St. Joseph in Seychelles, Monday, April 8, 2019. (AP Photo/David Keyton)
Associated Press reporter, David Keyton, looks out of a submersible at around 400 feet below the surface off the coast of the island of St. Joseph in Seychelles, Monday, April 8, 2019. (AP Photo/David Keyton)
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