The mysterious world of the deep sea is revealed to the public in an exhibition at the Hong Kong Science Museum from tomorrow (July 11) until November 12.
“The Deep”, featuring videos and more than 30 specimens and 60 photos, many of which were taken for the first time, depicts the various unfamiliar and fragile ecosystems existing in the realm.
Jointly presented by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department and the Consulate General of France in Hong Kong and Macau, the exhibition is organised by the Hong Kong Science Museum and funded by The Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust in collaboration with the Paris Natural History Museum. This is also an event of Le French May.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of the exhibition today (July 10), the Director of Leisure and Cultural Services, Mr Thomas Chow, said exploitation of ocean resources was rapidly destroying the environment. The population of many marine species had declined by 90% in the past decades and some were on the verge of extinction.
Mr Chow said, “To recognise, understand and learn how to conserve the oceans has become one of the pressing tasks in the world today. An effective way to promote public awareness of the issues concerned is to let them realise that the oceans are also home to a great diversity of life that we should respect.
“Combining the latest scientific research with amazing imagery, the exhibition allows visitors to peer into an abyss teeming with life that, while only a few thousand metres away, seems to be from an entirely different universe. We hope that, after touring the exhibition, the public will gain an appreciation not only of the stark beauty of the deep ocean, but also of the importance of preserving it for our future generations,” Mr Chow said.
Oceans cover over 70% of the Earth’s surface in which the deep sea occupies 85% of that space. In 1848, British naturalist Edward Forbes claimed that beyond 600 metres, the deep sea was lifeless. Explorers and scientists have spent the last 160 years proving him wrong. They found out that hidden away in the depths, an amazing menagerie of alien creatures lives their lives in silence, far from the light of the surface. In a world where gravity counts for little, life has colonised every vertical dimension. Many have strange shapes to survive in the high-pressure, pitch-dark and relentlessly cold environment by possessing bizarre anatomies.
At the ocean surface, where the sunlight penetrates, photosynthesis is possible. Plankton thrives here, so food is plentiful, making this zone the most crowded layer in the ocean.
Light levels rapidly decrease in the ocean, but scientists revealed the existence of a staggering profusion of organisms in the midwater, in particular gelatinous creatures, sometimes gigantic in size, which form the most abundant animal mass on Earth. At 150 metres below the surface, 99% of light has already been absorbed by seawater. Living creatures use two strategies to avoid being seen in this highly dangerous zone. Transparency is the best choice to blend in with the environment and the second solution is creating one’s own light to counterbalance the opacity of tissue, or a silvery reflective coating.
Between 150 and 600 metres below the surface, most creatures are transparent. However, descending below 600 meters, there will be new groups of animals, whose colours range from bright red to dark brown. Such pigments absorb the blue-green bioluminescence that most animals create at these depths, cloaking any bioluminescent sparks their prey might emit once in their stomachs.
Below 1,000 metre, scarcely a photon of solar origin penetrates. In this “aphotic” zone total darkness reigns supreme. The creatures which live in low densities in this dark kingdom have had to develop remarkable adaptations to survive in such a hostile environment. Their first challenge is to locate food, their second is to ensure that any available food is caught. But that is not all. There is also a need to find a mate – not an easy task in the vast darkness of the deep ocean. All of these challenges must be accomplished whilst avoiding the attention a myriad of predators lying in wait.
“The Deep” invites you to discover this true “final frontier” of the planet. With the use of special lighting effect, the exhibition creates a sense of immersion in the strange, fragile world of the Earth’s deep oceans, leading visitors into a world that is out of their imagination.
The Science Museum is located at 2 Science Museum Road, Tsim Sha Tsui East. It opens from 1pm to 9pm from Mondays to Wednesdays and on Fridays, and from 10am to 9pm on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays. It is closed on Thursdays (except public holidays). Admission is $25 with half-price concession for full-time students, people with disabilities and senior citizens aged 60 or above. Admission is free on Wednesdays.
For details of the exhibition, visit the Science Museum's website at http://hk.science.museum/. For enquiries, please call 2732 3232.
Ends/Thursday, July 10, 2008
A Dumbo Octopus. Scientists still know very little about these enigmatic octopuses which are often observed resting on the ocean floor, with their mantle spread around themselves. But nobody knows what are they doing there, sitting so quietly in the dark?
This jellyfish is different from pelagic (midwater) jellyfish. This one lives just above the bottom, catching prey with its 1,000 to 2,000 tentacles.
A Glowing-sucker Octopus which has been encountered near the ocean floor. They use their ear-shaped fins to propel themselves.