Deeper Than Light Exhibition in Oslo

The exhibition "Deeper than Light" recently opened its doors to the Norwegian public. On display are findings from the MAR-ECO project gathered by the use of acoustic and optical technology from Kongsberg Maritime.

The exhibition, a joint project between Bergen Museum and the Institute of Marine Research, is hosted by the Norwegian Maritime Museum in Oslo and is open to the public from 16th January to 17th February. Based on results from the international research project MAR-ECO, the exhibition provides an insight into the life and environment of the deep sea through the eyes of scientists, technologists and artists. It displays findings from an expedition in 2004 to research the marine life and ecosystem along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge between Iceland and the Azores and provides a glimpse of life at several thousand metres' depth by the use of interactivity, aquarelles, photographs and a fascinating selection of organisms caught from the depths.

Combining science and technology

The MAR-ECO project is part of a research programme called "Census of Marine Life", which constitutes a major global initiative to investigate unknown ecosystems underneath the surface of the blue sea. Scientific knowledge of the ocean remains very limited and investigations of marine life using appropriate technologies and approaches have just begun. Custom-made research ships equipped with the finest modern technology were essential in order to carry out the programme and its many projects.

As one of several sponsors, Kongsberg Maritime was invited to participate in MAR-ECO, resulting in the donation of acoustic technology. Three echo sounders used on acoustic landers were provided in 2004 and have since proven very useful. A backbone effort was a 2004 expedition on the Norwegian research vessel G.O. Sars equipped with a range of Kongsberg Maritime instruments. Ship-mounted multifrequency scientific sounders were used to study scattering layers from the surface down to 3000 metres depth, a multibeam sounder for real-time bathymetry mapping and cameras to study deepwater animals visiting autonomous baited landers. According to the MAR-ECO project leader, Odd Aksel Bergstad from the Institute of Marine Research, all of the instruments from Kongsberg Maritime were used in the G. O. Sars expedition:

"The multibeam sounder was a particularly important contribution from Kongsberg Maritime, enabling bathymetry mapping in real time. This is an enormous step forward in technology and the expedition scientists were extremely impressed by this capability. With equipment from Kongsberg Maritime, we were able to observe sound-scattering organisms down to three thousand metres' depth, something which was hard to believe for the party of international scientists onboard the vessel. In addition, the camera equipment has been very helpful especially for our team in the OCEANLAB at the University of Aberdeen, providing the opportunity for both still photos and film shots of organisms gathering around the landers. The Norwegian tradition for cooperation between the fishing industry, science and developers of maritime technology is quite unique and Kongsberg Maritime has been a great contributor to this collaboration," commented Odd Aksel Bergstad.

Diversity of species

Approximately 120 scientists and students from 16 countries take part in the MAR-ECO project, which was established in 2001 on the initiative of Odd Aksel Bergstad and his colleague from the Institute of Marine Research, Olav Rune Godø. The research project was initiated with the belief that we know too little about marine life along mid-ocean ridges. It turns out this was a correct assumption.

"It is hard to say what has been the most striking discovery during our research. We have found that many species are more widespread than we anticipated, and we have also seen great diversity of life forms. This proves that our initial assumptions were correct; there’s a lot we don’t know about marine life. So far, we have discovered approximately 300 species of fish, of which four or five are new to science. In addition, the area has a myriad of other organisms. However, since our scientific collection is still being processed, and we have further cruises to conduct to the Mid-Atlantic, it is too early to predict the final results," commented Mr. Bergstad.

Census of Marine Life was made possible through a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan foundation. In order to obtain this grant three pillars had to be in place. The project must not only conduct good science; it also had to make use of new technology. In addition, there was to be an educational aspect involved with strong emphasis on public outreach. This last pillar gave life to the travelling exhibition, "Deeper than Light", which could first be seen at the UNESCO house in Paris in March 2007 and has since been on display several places throughout Europe with Kongsberg Maritime as one of its major corporate sponsors. After Oslo, the exhibition travels on to Aberdeen and Valencia before it reaches Washington DC in 2009.

Art inspired by science

The exhibition "Deeper than light" focuses on experiences and sharing information. At the ‘knowledge box’ you can guide yourself through an interactive presentation of the MAR-ECO project through photos, film, sound and text. The presentation provides information about duties, challenges and preliminary results. The Norwegian landscape artist Ørnulf Opdahl participated in the research expedition during the summer of 2004. Some of his paintings are inspired by this experience and are on display in Oslo. At various stations in the exhibition, there are screens showing films from the expedition where deep sea organisms and use of advanced marine technology are central elements. Through their donation Kongsberg Maritime has provided an important contribution to examining the unknown life of the deep blue sea. The exhibition "Deeper than light" gives a glimpse into this exciting and mysterious world.