Best of the Abyss 2006

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Just when you thought you escaped the onslaught of annual reviews in the media, along comes a slacker post from the Deep Sea News. Craig tasked me with this weeks ago, but I quickly passed the responsibility to a bevy of impartial judges willing to slog through last year’s material in search of the year’s best stories.

So, welcome to the Best of the Abyss 2006. Five highly qualified judges from federal, non-profit and private sectors with backgrounds and experience in deep sea issues reviewed a list of nominations in categories compiled by Craig and myself, and submitted their votes with comments. The results are summarized in the style of the Zagat Guide, quoting insights from these reviewers. Most of the links reach back to the old website, so new readers will find this an amusing opportunity to see where we’ve been hiding, and what is in store for the new site at Science Blogs.

Tune in a few days from now for “Best of the Blog”, a similar rundown of top stories focused on Deep Sea News.


1. Greatest Discovery

Pollution at Vents

An international team of geologists reported anthropogenic lead in hydrothermal vents for the first time ever, suggesting few places on Earth remain untouched by human influence. The article by Dekov et al in Marine Geology reported on samples collected by submersible from the summit of Marsili Seamount in the Tyrrehnian Sea.

2. Best New Species

Yeti crab

I actually lost money on this one. Apparently everybody loves a fuzzy crab because it’s “covered in sulfo-oxidizing bacteria” and it “looks really cool”. This crab is “soo cute” it even makes for a nice stuffed animal, believe it or not. Regardless, I still can’t believe the “fightin chitin” defeated the giant sea anemone in this virtual arena.

3. Best Expedition (tie)

Expedition to the Deep Slope
Submarine Ring of Fire

Any deep-sea expedition is a good expedition, but two US expeditions take the cake in 2006. Judges noted all of the expeditions nominated were “cool and important”, but chose winners based on “amazing” videos and “great finds” like the volcano shrimp, the wave over the brine pool, the deep tube worm communities, the ongoing eruption of the NW Rota-1 volcano, and discovery of the Cauldron sulfur pond at Daikoku. Much credit goes to NOAA’s Office of Ocean Exploration for their impressive website offerings.

4. Best Podcast (tie)

Via Antarctica
Why do giant sharks live in shallow water?

Podcasts are an emerging technology, but the competition was thick in this department. “Via Antartica” was prized for excellent production quality (“it could be PBS”) and great videos, while “Giant Sharks” was hailed for a “great introduction, a great explanation” and great subject matter. Big props to the Scientific Party of the Palmer Antarctica Long-Term Ecological Research Program, H. Ducklow, Dr. Cindy Lee Van Dover, College of William and Mary, John Sepulvado of KAZU, and DSN’s own Craig McClain.

5. Best Photo

Octopus and Alvin (above)

“What a shot!” A nearly unanimous decision found Alvin Pilot Bruce Strickrott’s picture worth 1000 words (at top of post) because “it highlights the animals and the technology” and “doesn’t even look real”. One vote was even discounted because the judge was in the Alvin when the picture was taken. Still, this was a runaway victory. “Nice shot, Bruce.” Maybe we can put it on a coffee cup at Café Press.

Peter Etnoyer (406 Posts)

PhD candidate at Texas A&M University- Corpus Christi and doctoral fellow Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies.