November 2013: More Marine Tidbits from Tokyo

Thumbs Up for Further Deep Sea Research
It’s getting a lot colder in Japan and for me, far too cold to dive into the water but the good news is that for marine buffs, deep-sea research is continuing.  Following on from the giant squid footage that took Japan by storm this summer, some small factories in eastern Tokyo hoping to increase business opportunities developed three deep-sea probes collectively called the Edokko No.1. 

Yukio Sugino, the president of a rubber products factory that is involved in the project, said “it’s a compilation of 4 years of work.  I want to show that small factories can play a part in a key area of Japan’s marine resources development in the coming years.” He suggested building deep-sea exploration vessels, believing Japan was lagging behind in the development of marine resources.

On November 21st the three probes left the port of Yokosuka aboard a survey ship owned by the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC).  They were released 200km off Chiba prefecture and consisted of 3 vertically connected glass balls, each containing a 3D video camera, lighting equipment and a device to collect mud from the seabed.   One was dropped to about 4,000 meters and the other two to 8,000 meters.  Two of the probes photographed a school of fish that seemed to be a particular species of cusk eel called “Yomino Ashiro” (abyssobrotula galatheae) that lives at over 6,000 meters.  It’s the deepest-living fish known and eats polychaete worms and crustaceans.  Footage of the seabed at 4,000m was also taken.

The role of small factories in the marine field is an exciting one.  Does it mean that people or companies with seemingly no science-related connections or background could play a part in the development of marine resources?  I certainly hope so!

New Island, New Dive Site?
Meanwhile, down in the Ogasawara Island chain about 1,000km south of Tokyo, a volcanic eruption, the first in 40 years in the area, has created a new islet. 

The Ogasawara Islands were formed about 48 million years ago and lie above a subduction zone between the Pacific Plate and Philippine Sea Plate where the Pacific Plate is subducting under the Philippine Plate.  The Ogasawara Islands are composed of a type of volcanic rock called boninite which is full of magnesium oxide and silicon dioxide.

The eruption is said to have occurred about 500 meters south-southeast of Nishinoshima Island, an uninhabited place about 650 meters long and 200 meters wide. 

Since it was first spotted, the islet is continuing to grow because of three craters that are pushing out lava and ash.  If it survives, it could become part of the country’s map.

A 100-meter long stable lava flow has been observed from the air making its way into the sea.  When such a flow occurs, the surface cools and then hardens, increasing the chances that the islet will remain.  The islet has also grown to about 25 meters high and is the first new Japanese land mass in 27 years. 

The Ogasawara Islands has world class diving with beautiful clear water and a huge range of marine life and coral.  Other common sights include green turtles and sand tiger sharks while some shipwrecks from World War Two add something extra to a dive.  Could the recently-formed islet eventually become yet another dive spot for enthusiastic divers? 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s