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Mission to the Deep

What's it Like to Explore the Deep Sea?

Join us for a virtual dive and discover an amazing underwater world. A 360-degree video projection takes you far below the ocean's surface, where amazing animals inhabit the dark, cold depths. You'll learn about the cutting-edge science of our partner institution, the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI), where scientists and engineers are working together to monitor the pulse of the ocean.

Big red jelly

Big Red Jelly

Tiburonia granrojo

This giant jelly lives far below the ocean's surface. Very little is known about its biology, but it can grow bigger than a basketball. MBARI scientists have discovered an astounding community of gelatinous species in the depths of Monterey Bay.
  • Depth range: 941 to 7,310 ft. (287 to 2,228 m)
  • Size: diameter to 3 ft. (1 m)
Autonomous underwater vehicle

Autonomous Underwater Vehicle

These self-guided robots are unmanned and move freely. They carry out specific missions; some monitor water quality, while others map the seafloor. They're creating detailed maps of the ocean floor to help MBARI scientists learn about earthquake activity in central California and volcanic activity in the Pacific Northwest.
  • Depth range: surface to 19,685 ft. (6,000 m)
  • Length: 21 ft. (6.4 m)

Black-eyed squid

Black-eyed Squid

Gonatus sp.

Shallow-water squid lay eggs on the seafloor, but this deep-sea squid, observed in Monterey Bay, carries her eggs in her arms instead. MBARI's remotely operated vehicles are revealing remarkable new species and helping scientists learn about the lives of deep-sea animals.
  • Depth range: 1,312 to 4,921 ft. (400 to 1,500 m)
  • Size: to 15.5 in. (39 cm)
Benthic rover

Benthic Rover

About the size and weight of a small compact car, this mobile lab crawls across the seafloor. It takes photographs of the animals and sediment in its path, and measures the amount of oxygen consumed by small organisms that live in the mud. The rover is helping scientists better understand deep-sea food webs.
  • Depth range: to 19,685 ft. (6,000 m)
  • Length: 8.5 ft. (2.6 m)



Anoplogaster cornuta

Although it looks fierce, this fish is only about six inches (15 cm) long. Like many deep-sea predators, it can drift in the darkness for weeks at a time, waiting for prey to swim by. The fangtooth's oversized mouth and teeth help it grab and hold onto fish and squid almost as large as it is.
  • Depth range: to 16,400 ft. (5,000 m)
  • Size: 6 in. (15 cm)
Flapjack octopus

Flapjack Octopus

Opisthoteuthis sp.

This cool-looking creature belongs to an unusual group of octopuses that have webbing between their arms. Often observed sitting on the seafloor, this octopus swims by flapping its fins to hover just above the bottom. It can pulse the web of arms and push water through its funnel for more rapid escapes. MBARI scientists think this is a new species of flapjack octopus. We've collected some specimens to study here at the Aquarium.
  • Depth range: 984 to 1,476 ft. (300 to 450 m)
  • Size: diameter to 7 in. (18 cm)
Environmental Sample Processor

Environmental Sample Processor

This self-contained DNA laboratory brings the power of a high-tech research lab into the ocean. It analyzes water samples to identify larvae, harmful plankton and bacteria. This sampler can help us take the pulse of the ocean—and better understand its link to human health.
  • Depth range: surface to 9,842 ft. (3,000 m)
  • Height: 4 ft. (1.2 m)

Remotely operated vehicle

Remotely Operated Vehicle

These robotic vehicles are tethered to a ship, where researchers control their movements and actions. They're equipped with high-definition video and still cameras to record images of sea life, geology and experiments. They also carry sampling equipment and sensors for collecting information about the ocean and seafloor.
  • Depth range: surface to 13,123 ft. (4,000 m)
  • Length: 12 ft. (3.7 m)

Vampire Squid

Vampyroteuthis infernalis

Despite its sinister appearance, this animal is a scavenger. Look closely to see its thin feeding filament. Vampire squid feed on the rain of organic matter slowly drifting down from the surface. MBARI scientists wonder how changing conditions at the ocean's surface may affect life in the deep waters below.
  • Depth range: 1,968 to 2,953 ft. (600 to 900 m)
  • Size: to 16 in. (40 cm)

Monterey Accelerated Research System

This underwater observatory rests on the ocean floor. A 32-mile (52 km) cable transmits images and data back to scientists onshore. MBARI scientists can install and test groundbreaking technologies on the observatory to better understand deep-sea ecosystems and look for changes over time.
  • Depth range: 2,953 ft. (900 m)
  • Length: 15 ft. (4.6 m)


The Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) is a leader in ocean research and exploration. At MBARI, scientists and engineers work together to ask critical questions about the ocean and develop tools and technologies to find answers. Their work is advancing our understanding of the ocean and how human impact is driving ocean change.

Want to learn more about MBARI's latest discoveries?

The Monterey Canyon

This submarine canyon, located just offshore of Moss Landing, California, is deeper than the Grand Canyon. Home to an astonishing array of sea life and a wide variety of habitats, Monterey Canyon and the waters above it provide an ideal deep-sea laboratory for MBARI scientists.

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