The latest in sub-sea technology will be used to document the state of the Indian Ocean, in a world-first project called First Descent.
Durban - The world’s first live sub-sea television series could soon be beaming from the depths of the Indian Ocean, possibly including the South African eastern coastline.

The TV series is one part of a major deep-sea exploration project called First Descent, which is organised by the Commonwealth Secretariat and marine research company Nekton.

Their mission is to explore and document uncharted depths of the Indian Ocean, and the state and health of marine life.

The project will include an expedition ship decked out as a floating research station that includes a submersible vehicle, capable of descending to 3000m. The data gathered would be used in conservation initiatives.

“This is a mission of world firsts - including the first live sub-sea TV series and an examination of previously unexplored ocean depths with cutting edge technologies.

“But what is most important is the insight this will offer governments and those who make decisions on important ocean governance issues such as conservation, climate change and fishing,” said Commonwealth director of trade, oceans and natural resources Paulo Kautoke.

Nekton’s founder is Oliver Steeds, a submersible pilot and broadcast journalist. Some of its work since 2016 includes exploring the Rariphotic Zone and the publication of a new identification guide for Bermuda to aid marine biologists.

The expedition ship is expected to set sail from Seychelles next month.

Steeds said the project was a bold bid to help accelerate scientific understanding of how the Indian Ocean was changing.

“Sustainable ocean development is the heart of what we are doing to support a blue economy and we are delighted to partner with the Commonwealth to support regionally led ocean governance for the Indian Ocean region.

“We are seeking other Commonwealth nations to participate in future expeditions after the Seychelles this year through to 2022,” said Steeds.

Whether the project would skirt the KZN coastline has not yet been confirmed, but the Commonwealth’s head of oceans and natural resources, Dr Nicholas Hardman-Mountford, said: “The Indian Ocean coast of South Africa would be a very exciting area for an expedition and we would be pleased to look at partnering with the South African government and science community about the possibility.”

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