Ocean Wise Divers in the Arctic

Ocean Wise Arctic dive team goes where no scientists have gone before, diving with One Ocean Expeditions.

A specialized team of dive researchers from Vancouver based Ocean Wise are wrapping up a trip to the High Arctic this week onboard with One Ocean Expeditions, diving in underwater sites that have never been explored before, and documenting the marine life that inhabits them.

The research is possible because of an innovative partnership between One Ocean Expeditions and Ocean Wise. Last month, we announced a five-year agreement with the intent of expanding our joint education and research programs around the world on select OOE voyages. We provide over 120 days per year on our two (soon to be three) vessels to hand-selected scientifically accredited organizations, such as Ocean Wise, for scientific research.

Roger Pimenta divers
Divers heading back to the Akademik Ioffe. Photo by Roger Pimenta

One Ocean Expeditions’ General Manager, Catherine Lawton, says “Combining passenger tourism with meaningful scientific research creates an incredible opportunity, for those interested, to engage. The more opportunities we provide for guests to engage with scientists through conversations and presentations, the more ambassadors for those sensitive regions we create.”

The Ocean Wise Arctic dive team is the only one of its kind in Canada, with expertise and equipment — including regulators designed to remain ice-free when diving in very low temperatures, such as water as cold as 0.5 degrees Celsius. Since 2015, the team has been conducting nearshore biodiversity surveys in Cambridge Bay, and are monitoring changes in the abundance of key taxonomic groups of fish, invertebrates and algae. This year marks the first that such surveys will be conducted at previously unexplored sites between Resolute Bay and Grise Fjord in the High Arctic.

“Having our research dive team onboard with One Ocean Expeditions provides us access to underwater ecosystems that have never been studied before,” said Eric Solomon, director of Arctic Programs for Ocean Wise. “Throughout the 10-day expedition, Ocean Wise divers have been conducting biodiversity surveys, collecting specimens for the Barcode of Life DNA barcoding effort for Arctic marine species, and monitoring ocean temperature.”

On Thursday, Solomon and other Ocean Wise personnel will board another One Ocean Expeditions’ voyage and will be collecting water samples along the way for later analysis, including for the presence of microplastics. With the entire region experiencing record-low monthly sea ice conditions, and Arctic air temperatures rising at double the rate of the global temperature increase, these studies will help scientists understand the impact of changes on the Arctic ecosystem, wildlife, and communities. While onboard, researchers also engage with expedition guests, explaining the purpose of their studies, and enlisting their help in citizen science projects.

Roger Pimenta touch tanks
Guests exploring items in the touch tanks. Photo by Roger Pimenta

The Vancouver Aquarium — now an Ocean Wise initiative — first explored the Arctic 45 years ago, and in recent years, the organization has increased its commitment to protect the region, through research, collaboration, engagement, and education.

For more information on our Arctic voyages click here.