The footage you’re watching right now is of a ten-foot long juvenile giant squid. We’ve only captured the giant squid on camera in its natural habitat once before. This elusive creature is infamously difficult to study and observe, but thanks to advances in deep ocean robotics, we can take a new look into previously unexplored oceanic depths. The camera system that captured this jaw-dropping shot is called ‘Medusa’, because it includes a lure made of LED lights designed to resemble a bioluminescent jellyfish, a preferred snack of many deep sea creatures, including the giant squid. Medusa represents an exciting new breakthrough in deep sea technology. It uses novel techniques to help us understand more about the deep sea environment and the creatures that live there, hopefully helping us protect species that we know relatively little about, like the giant squid, in the face of changing oceans. And scientists have been working for decades to make this kind of ocean-exploring tech better. The Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, for example, has been a leader in this development, with deep sea exploring robots like the seafloor mapping AUV, the Doc Ricketts ROV, and Ventana. Advances like this are important because many oceanographers believe that more traditional ocean-exploring tech is too bright and disturbing— essentially, it’s too disruptive to capture footage of deep ocean creatures behaving naturally. Their behavior would be altered by the presence of such a device. Medusa is one example of a less intrusive observation system, as it hangs on a line that can extend up to two thousand meters, allowing scientists back on the boat to keep a respectful distance. And it uses red light to illuminate what it’s seeing, which scientists hypothesize most deep sea creatures can’t detect. This idea was given new supporting evidence when the Medusa team captured this new giant squid footage, as the squid wasn’t scared off by the red light that helps Medusa’s cameras see in the dark. Another collaborative team with MBARI is also using red light and several other strategies to minimize disturbance in a new vehicle called the Mesobot. It’s an unassuming 1.2 meters tall and about 250 kilograms, really quite small for an oceangoing robot, making it able to fulfill its mission: to track individual organisms for hours at a time without disrupting their natural behavior, like a little robotic private investigator! It’s a hybrid remotely operated vehicle that moves very slowly using large, slow-turning thrusters to avoid disturbing the water around its target, and it can track an individual animal as it swims or drifts with the currents. And the Mesobot is not just stalking deep sea creatures— it also aims to help us understand more about what this part of the ocean is really like. It will take measurements of salinity, temperature, and dissolved oxygen as it moves and collect biological samples that will eventually yield DNA from tiny or shy creatures that may have escaped detection. Researchers hope this will shed more light on a relatively mysterious part of the ocean: the mesopelagic zone, also known as the ‘ocean twilight zone’. This is the area about 200 to 1,000 meters below the ocean surface where the light from the sun almost entirely disappears. It’s far deeper than human divers can swim, and squid, salps, eels, sharks and many kinds of fish thrive here. Some scientists hope the Mesobot will be able to tell us more about how life in this understudied part of the ocean lives naturally, and how it may change as the ocean faces threats like overfishing and climate change. The Mesobot has already undergone its open ocean trials and hopes to be deployed on real data-collecting missions soon to help us understand more of the ocean than we ever have before. After all, thanks to amazing space probe technology, we know way more about what the surface of Mars looks like than we do about the ocean. We just need to figure out how to study it— and technology like Medusa, the Mesobot, and hopefully many more ocean-venturing robots will bring us one step closer to that goal. For even more oceanic exploration, check out this video here and make sure you subscribe to Seeker for all your exciting robotics news. Thanks for watching and we’ll see you next time on Seeker.