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Uncrewed Underwater Vehicle Maps the Splendor of Seafloor Off California

Researchers have compiled 20 years of data into one animation.

MBARI and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) scientists have been using a remotely operated underwater vehicle (ROV) to map the ocean floor off of California. The images that result from the experiment are captivating.

Just 19 miles (30 kilometers) west of Point Sur on California’s Central Coast, the researchers have discovered an underwater oasis, beaming with corals and sponges. They call this area Sur Ridge and they have been investigating it for 20 years now.

The area stands 1,640 ft (500 meters) tall and stretches over 12 miles (20 kilometers) long. 

In an effort to share the beauty of this underwater heaven with the public, MBARI scientists have worked with designers at Frame 48 (a Los Angeles-based post-production company) to transform the data they have collected into an animation that can be enjoyed by all.

“Our goal was to distill these two decades of work into a two-minute animation that captures the majesty of this underwater world that so few people get to see,” said in statement MBARI Principal Engineer Dave Caress who helped oversee the effort. “It’s the next best thing to visiting Sur Ridge in person.”

But compiling these images was no easy feat. “Because MBARI has a large collection of data sets, each with a different resolution and coverage area, we had to come up with a few different methods to properly view and match the data together in a computer-generated environment,” said Executive Producer Tom Teller who led the team at Frame 48.

The end result is an absolutely mesmerizing and captivating video that will likely take your breath away. “The final animation very much reflects the weaving together of art and science to showcase the amazing geology, biology, and ecology of Sur Ridge,” concluded Teller.

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