Companies could soon begin searching for raw materials underwater – and destroying a unique ecosystem. On the way with research vessel Sonne to manganese nodules and sea cucumbers.
In November 2022, Lillian Boehringer was sitting in the laboratory of the research vessel Sonne, about 2,000 kilometers off the west coast of Mexico, looking at images of the sea floor. They come from a camera towing the ship behind at a depth of 4,500 metres. First, wondrous creatures flash across the screen of a doctoral student from the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in Bremerhaven. Some grow on potato-like rocks: filigree coral trees, sponges with long stems and sea anemones that catch food particles from the stream with their nettle arms. Sea cucumbers crawl among sedentary animals – white, pink, purple, prickly sausages and fat “porpoises”. A big-eyed grenadier fish slides across the picture.