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Deep Sea Research
The concept of ocean is today being changed drastically. It has been discovered by the survey of deep seas in the past several decades that, in the extreme environment of dark sea bottom where temperature is very low and pressure is very high, and no electromagnetic energy can penetrate, there still exist creatures which do not depend on solar energy for living but on a completely different metabolism of hot water, and such sea bottom is full of amazing features. It was also found that the records from the time of creation of the sea is left on the deep sea bottom, and it is important to clarify such record in predicting the future changes in terrestrial environment.
It is believed that the earth's surface consists of a number of plates. When two of such plates meet and one of them subducts underneath the other, a trench is created. When two plates separate from one another, a volcanic activity is created to fill the gap, and a large ridge named the "mid-ocean ridge". Therefore, regions of such trenches and mid-ocean ridge are geologically active, where seismic and/or volcanic activities occur frequently. The mid-ocean ridges are usually located several thousand meters below sea level, and their actual status is not clearly known. However, new volcanoes and hydrothermal activities related to volcanism are observed, and this region is one of the important study themes in earth science.
There exist trenches exceeding 6,000 meters along the Japanese Islands, and it is believed that plates sub-duct along their trenches. As this subduction causes earthquakes and volcanic activities on the landside, the mechanics of trench is deemed important in analyzing seismo / volcanic phenomena. At the central part of a plate, where there is no interference from other plates, sediments accumulate quietly on the sea bottom some 5000-meter deep, and manganese nodules are frequently produced.
There are three methods for long-term observations of the deep-sea floor. They include a self-recording method, real-time method and buoy satellite method, which provides a great deal of data. A comprehensive ocean floor observation station was established in September 1993 in a clam bed in water 1,174 m deep off Hatsushima Island in Sagami Bay. Long-term observations were begun using a real-time method.
Deep Sea Research on Sea Creatures
Deep sea surveys conducted during recent years have revealed the existence of deep sea biological communities, composed of organisms scarcely known in the past, at deep sea hydrothermal vent and cold seep areas. It is apparent that such communities or ecosystems that are sustained by chemical synthesis of microbes that do not depend on solar energy, but instead utilize the chemical energy of substances supplied from the deep-sea bottom. The studies of there communities are one of the major focuses of the world attention in deep-sea biology.
Deep Sea Research on Sea Micro-organisms
There has been a major focus on research of the unique microorganisms that grow under such special environment of deep-sea bottom where hot water ejects or cold water seeps out. Basic researches are being conducted to understand the mechanism by which they can stand high pressure, high temperature or low temperature, and to clarify the biological characteristics such as genes and proteins.
Projects like, the development of deep-sea microorganisms collecting and cultivating system, and the preservation and distribution of deep-sea microorganisms, are implemented for effectively making them available the researches. The deep sea microorganisms inhabit is collected and brought to the land by the research submersible, etc., and the isolation and cultivation of microorganisms can be performed under the pressure and temperature conditions similar to the deep-sea environment. The system consists of four subsystems, the mud collector, diluting equipment, separating equipment and cultivating bath. With the preservation and distribution deep sea microorganisms, it is intended to systematically classify and preserve the deep sea microorganisms to be obtained through activities of the research group, and to distribute them for the scientific community at large.
Deep Sea Research Institutes/Organizations over the world