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female crab

A female swimming crab keeps her guard up to protect the thousands of eggs she’s carrying. Crabs often carry their eggs for a short 

period before casting them out to hatch into larval crabs.

photo: R. Peyton Hale

Faces from the deep

Museum coordinator blogs about undersea mission trip

by Jonathan Pishney


“It is only at the first encounter that a face makes its full impression on us.” 

                                                                                                          – Arthur Schopenhauer


In November, during a 15-day mission known as “Life on the Edge: Extreme Corals,” a team of researchers and educators explored new features found on seafloor maps from the Gulf of Mexico to northern Florida east of Jacksonville.


Throughout the trip, mission scientists mapped live coral and associated animals and strived to understand the importance of deep coral ecosystems as fisheries habitats, reservoirs of ocean biodiversity, and recorders of past changes in climate and ocean conditions. Mike Dunn, coordinator of teacher education for the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh, blogged from the ship during the mission at


Here’s an excerpt:


“The views of the deep were mesmerizing, but video coming back from the remotely operated vehicle (ROV) told only a part of the story,” Dunn wrote. “When specimens from the ROV were brought on board, there was excitement as scientists scrambled to retrieve what they needed, and we began the barrage of camera flashes as deep-sea paparazzi. It was mainly then that I was able to appreciate the incredible beauty and diversity of the deep.


“On video screens, you saw the large thickets of coral, some amazing sponges, some fish, and some crabs and the occasional other invertebrates,” he continued in the blog. “When you got the samples on board, you began seeing all the amazing variety of tiny organisms — the brittle stars, tiny starfish, minute crabs, worms, soft corals, cup corals, encrusting sponges and even some things people aren’t quite sure about. Each sample was a treasure trove of knowledge from a place so few scientists have been able to study.


“The faces on this trip were particularly interesting. On the people: tired faces, happy faces, excited faces, and a few stressed faces when weather or technical issues delayed dives. Then, when we got specimens in the lab to photograph them, the personalities came out in the faces of the many creatures of the deep.” 


Jonathan Pishney is communications director for the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh. To learn more, call (919) 733-7450 or visit