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'Twilight Zone' aquarium exhibit brings some of the deepest parts of the ocean to the surface




Grand Cayman
Grand Cayman
© Luiz Rocha

The far-reaching depths of the ocean are more mysterious outer space - there’s still so much we don’t know. But The California Academy of Sciences is unlocking some of those secrets with a new semi-permanent exhibit at the Steinhart Aquarium.

The exhibit is called The Twilight Zone: Deep Reefs revealed and it will feature fish and marine life no one has seen anywhere else.

Twilight Zone Exhibit entry
Twilight Zone Exhibit entry
Kathryn Whitney

For more, Steinhart aquarium director Bart Shepherd, spoke to host A Martinez.

Interview Highlights

Why is called the Twilight Zone?

"The Twilight Zone gets at two important aspects of the work that we're doing. First of all, the places that we travel to are somewhat dark, they're actually called mesophotic reefs, or middle light reefs and it's so deep that it's really this sort of mysterious deep blue or even dark light down there and so it kind of is twilight. And then the second is really of course, it just really captivates the mystery of the place and the sense of unknown. All of the work that we can do down there, there's so much left to explore on our planet."

Twilight Zone at depth
Twilight Zone at depth
Luiz Rocha

What kind of special equipment was necessary to dive that deep?

"What we do, is we use a closed circuit re-breather and it's basically a machine that recycles the air that you're breathing over and over again. It's kind of like breathing in a bag, except without the passing out part. So we have a filter on our back that is a scrubber that removes the carbon dioxide that we exhale through a chemical reaction and then we have a small tank of oxygen that we can add oxygen back into what we call the loop...and that enables us to do dives up to about seven hours in length."

Grand Cayman
Grand Cayman
© Luiz Rocha

What about the marine life, what was done to keep them safe?

"You know it's really fascinating because a lot of the corals and other animals that are down there we can just collect and bring up and all we have to manage is make sure that they're in the same temperature and the same sort of lighting in which they were collected...we actually developed...a portable fish decompression chamber and when we collect the fish we put them inside this chamber at about 200 or 250 feet deep and we seal it up and then that now becomes the world's deepest aquarium...it keeps the fish at the same pressure at which we collected them for as long as we want and we connect it to a pump on the surface and over a period of a couple of days we can slowly acclimate them to surface pressure."

Twilight Zone Exhibit Fish
Twilight Zone Exhibit Fish
Kathryn Whitney

To hear the full interview, click the blue play button above.



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