Information for schools joining the ‘Floating classroom’

Headless chicken monsters. Dumbo octopuses. Faceless fish. Weird and wonderful species live in Australia’s deep seas!

This October, we’re giving schools the chance to live stream a scientists (led by Museums Victoria) on a ‘floating classroom’: the CSIRO’s RV Investigator science ship.

Before you join the 30 minute live stream, we encourage you to:

  1. Watch this fantastic overview film of the expedition by Museums Victoria
  2. Watch this short clip of scientists collecting and sampling the beam trawl
  3. Scroll through this brilliant interactive webpage to learn what lives in the ocean’s depths.
  4. Learn about how deep-sea creatures survive in the crushing dark
  5. Watch the live stream from the front of the ship – you can see what the captain sees!
  6. See where the ship is right now on this map
  7. Follow the latest photos and films from the expedition, on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
  8. FAQs for teachers connecting to the live stream.

And if you have a time to learn more, read on!

Six deep sea species against a black background
Animals from the Sampling the Abyss Voyage (along the east coast of Australia) in 2017. Top: Spiny King Crab, Facless Cusk, Monkey Brittle Star. Bottom: Smooth-head Blobfish, Flesh-eating amphipod and Threadfin Dragonfish. Photographer: Robert Zugaro. Source: Museums Victoria. Copyright Museums Victoria / CC BY (Licensed as Attribution 4.0 International)

About the voyage:

What kind of science is happening on board?

Life in the deep sea

All about the ship: the RV Investigator

The CSIRO research vessel (RV) Investigator. Credit-Tauri-Minogue-CSIRO.

A map of the trip (we are following the red line)

10 creatures of the deep (found nearby, in the 2021 voyage)

  1. The dragonfish: This species uses bioluminescence to expose their prey. They can go for months without food.
  2. Tripodfish: The Bathypterois tripodfish as elongated bony fins sometimes 1m long, so it can ‘stand’ on the ocean floor.
  3. ‘Faceless Fish’: This fish was only discovered by scientists on a similar voyage (along the east coast) in 2017.
  4. Sea pigs: Sea pigs are a type of sea cucumber with little tube-like legs.
  5. Cookiecutter shark: Attaches to prey with its sucking mouthpart, then spins to take a cookie-shaped plug of flesh!
  6. Fangtooth: Has a large head and a large mouth full of long, pointed teeth. It can live down to 5000m.
  7. Dumbo octopus: This octopus looks like the famous flying elephant, with ‘ears’ that it flaps to swim.
  8. Bony-eared assfish: This cusk-eel has a large head, a tapering flabby body, and an unfortunate name.
  9. Cold-water corals: You’ve probably heard of shallow-water tropical corals, but many coral species can live in the deep, dark sea.
  10. Brittlestars: Use their arms to grab floating organisms and organic matter and direct it to jaws on their body’s underside.

For more species, check out this deep Sea critters factsheet (from species found on the 2021 voyage)


15 facts about the expedition and the deep sea

  1. There are currently 50 people on board the RV Investigator science ship. That includes 10 technicians, 19 crew, and 21 scientists.
  2. We will be on the water for 35 days. We left Darwin, will travel to Cocos (Keeling) Islands, and finish our journey in Perth.
  3. It takes seven days to motor from Darwin to Cocos (Keeling) Islands.
  4. The waters around Cocos (Keeling) Islands can be as deep as 6000 metres! The average depth of the entire ocean is about 3700 metres. The titanic sunk to a depth of 3,800 metres.
  5. At 4000m below sea level, the water temperature can be 4°C, as cold as your fridge!
  6. Most of the ocean’s life is found within 200 metres of the surface. This is called the ‘littoral zone’. Then there is the ‘bathyl zone’ (200 to 3000m) and the ‘abyssal zone’ (3000 to 6000m). Anything deeper than that is the ‘hadal zone’. Sometimes 1,000 to 4,000 m below sea level is called the midnight zone.
  7. 332 meters is the deepest any human has ever scuba dived. It was set by Ahmed Gabr in 2014.
  8. The deepest part of the ocean is called the Challenger Deep, at approximately 10,935 metres deep.
  9. Red light has the longest wavelength, so it’s the first to be filtered out by the water at about 100 metres below the surface. Many deep sea species use the colour red as camouflage because it leaves the spectrum as you dive deeper.
  10. Many deep-sea creatures cope by creating light themselves – this is known as bioluminescence. Anglerfish have a large bioluminescent lure used to attract prey in the darkness.
  11. Many species use ‘countershading’ to camouflage: adjusting their body pigmentation to match their background. They are lighter underneath (so they don’t form a silhouette from below) and darker above (so they can’t be seen by prey above).
  12. Daily vertical migration: As you move deeper in the ocean, there is less and less food. So at night many deep sea species migrate to the upper 200m to feed in the biomass-rich surface layer of water. At night, they can still hide from predators in a dark environment.
  13. Seamounts (underwater mountains) surveyed on this this voyage are mostly from late Cretaceous age (65-80 million years ago).
  14. RV Investigator is 94-metre long. It has a beam (width) of 18.5 metres. It is 10 storeys high internally.
  15. RV Investigator can accomodate 40 researchers and technicians, and 20 crew. It can travel for 60 days and 10,000 nautical miles without needing to resupply.

It’s a very exciting expedition, and we can’t wait to share some stories of science and life at sea with you!

This research is supported by a grant of sea time on RV Investigator from the CSIRO Marine National Facility.