Claire Corlett

Fish Food, Fish Tanks, and More
Bringing Fish Up from the Deep | Engineering Is

Bringing Fish Up from the Deep | Engineering Is

One of the most interesting parts of
the ocean for me is this area that we call the twilight
zone which is this narrowband of the ocean between about 200 and 500 feet the below the surface of the water. It’s
mysterious It’s unknown. It’s sort of enchanting and
captivating but also it’s an area where literally
the light is like Twilight. This Twilight Zone
is part of the coral reef, but it’s a part that is
very understudied. About half of the fish are not known.
Nobody goes down there because there’s a lot of technical difficulties associated going there. So
a lot of the times those deep reefs are being destroyed even before we identify what’s down there. It wasn’t
until really recent years that we’ve had sophisticated and reliable diving
equipment that allowed people to actually go down
there and come back. One of the most challenging aspects to
this diving really is the pressure. The deeper you go in the ocean the
more and more pressure is stacking up and that’s essentially just
all that water that’s over your head pressing down on your body. One of the
first things we recognize is that the fish that we wanted to bring up
from the depths were subject to the same decompression issues that humans are. So
most fish have swim bladders. It’s a little
chamber filled with gas that keeps them neutrally buoyant. So, if they
didn’t have a swim bladder because the fish, the tissues are heavier than water they would just
sink. If you capture a fish at those depths and you just bring it to the surface
that swim bladder is going to inflate – the gas expands
inversely to the pressure. The swim bladder expands it pushes the
stomach away, pushes the heart, the heart stops beating and then everything else collapses just
because the swim bladder takes the space of everything. There’s an anti in there
somewhere. There’s one there. from Hawaii. I started to hear
about the idea of the Academy going down and
exploring deep under the ocean with divers and
possibly collecting fish down there. And since my job is to make sure that
those fish come back healthy I thought about different ways that we could make sure that they could handle that
pressure change. Is there a way that we can see all the fish up at pressure keep
them at the pressure that they were collected at and bring them to the
surface and slowly decompress them over a period of a few days so that we don’t have to have any of
that trauma. What we wanted to do was take the pressure chamber underwater
with us. We knew if we want to dive with it that it needed
to be sturdy, yet sleek, yet light, yet all these things that
sort of are design compromises. And it also needs to have corse be able
to handle the immense amount of pressure that’s on it. The first sort of flash bulb over the head idea that we had was to use a water
filter housing They’re used for home water filtration. It’s about two gallons. It’s enough space for fish to live in that space for about 24
hours while we decompress them. And that’s a cheap off the shelf unit
you can get one for about a hundred dollars. And then we just heavily modified it. This is
the main pressure canister, the main pressure chamber. I mean it’s basically tinkering on a grand
scale. I mean I played with Legos when I was a kid and this is like real adult legos right? Putting all
these things together and seeing how they work and seeing how an idea that is brand new, that nobody’s ever
done before. Seeing how it works in the real world is great. It’s a dream job. It’s a portable, submersible, decompression chamber. You just pull the
velcro open and stick the fish in and seal the velcro. And then once we were done with the
collecting, we make sure that we seal it all up tight, make sure it holds the pressure, and then we
start our assent. They bring it up to the boat, and then we
connect it to a water supply and our pressure generating pump. And that pushes water through the
cannisters so that the fish start to get a water change. We keep it like that for next 24 hours
while we slowly start to bleed off that pressure until it’s at surface pressure. We brought
back you know probably a dozen or so species
of fish from the twilight zone, including some really favorites of mine called
ferry basslets. And they have great colors and they live in this unique
social structures with harems of males and multiple
females. It’s wonderful I come in, I check on them
every day. I’m gonna try and find, you know, the fish that I collected at 300 feet and the Philippines. For me
bringing back live animals and getting them on to the public floor is a direct way to connect with, you know,
at least a million-and-a-half people who come to the Academy, and show them a living real thing. An
authentic thing that came from deepest depths of
the ocean. I think in order for people to really understand
and want to conserve and protect life in these depths they have to have a direct connection with it.

10 comments on “Bringing Fish Up from the Deep | Engineering Is

  1. I was always wondering how fish can survive such intense pressures, but we can barely build machines that can withstand the same depths

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