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The Discovery of the Deep

The story of the exploration of the deep ocean,

the largest and most mysterious of earth's habitats.

A miniseries in three 1-hour episodes.

Episode 1 begins with the deep ocean a complete unknown. Yet, during little more than a decade in the mid-19th century, a few brave (and often eccentric)  explorers, spurred by the Industrial Revolution's need for rapid trans-oceanic communication and the new Darwinian evolution, turn a lifeless abyss into a fascinating menagerie of bizarre creatures. The episode ends in 1872 with the departure of HMS Challenger, marking the beginning of oceanography as a science.

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Olaus Magnus (1572)

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Agassiz (1888)

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Episode 2 follows Challenger's voyage around the world and the explosion of expeditions and discoveries that followed; the beginnings of our understanding of how water moves through the deep; a Prince's predilection for deep-sea squids, and the arrival of modern techniques such as echo sounding. The episode ends in the 1930s as two men prepare to descend into the deep for the first time, in a steel sphere dangling at the end of a half-mile of cable.

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Institut océanographique

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Chun (1910)

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National Geographic



In Episode 3, explorers finally confront the dangers and creatures of the abyss on their own turf. Submarine warfare soon forces navies to focus on the deep sea as well. Life is finally dredged from the deepest trenches and, shortly thereafter, humans visit. Attempts to extract valuable minerals and dump nuclear wastes raise the specter of exploitation. The unexpected discoveries of deep-sea hot vents and cold seeps completely alter our understanding of the way the ocean works. The episode ends with a new understanding of the abyss that offers connections with advances in medicine, ecology, geologic history, and the possibility of life on other worlds.


US Naval Undersea Museum, Keyport, WA

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Format: The program proposes to incorporate archival footage and images, historical recreations, animations, computer graphics, and live shipboard, laboratory and underwater footage.

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