Our first exposure to the deep mesophotic coral reef ecosytem was in 2002 during what was among the first uses of mixed-gas for scientific diving within NOAA’s Undersea Research Program. Thee work was conducted along the deep vertical fore-reef lining Exuma Sound in the Bahamas. In just 8 short minutes at a depth of 300 fsw (90 msw), a dozen new species of marine sponge were discovered. According to the University of Mississippi, more than half of these revealed bio-activities of interest in the search for cures for cancer, HIV, diabetes, and other human disease. This pivotally inspirational moment catalyzed our thirst to advance human intervention of deep and difficult to reach ocean environments. This ongoing quest, for “the 9th minute” remains a priority.
Subsequent missions to the Bahamas have resulted in new species of fish, new techniques for deep scientific diving, and entirely new technologies. This work has been supported by the National Geographic Society and others.