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Historic feat of Nekton Maldives Mission; maps midnight zone seamount

Mohamed Rehan
01 October 2022, MVT 13:31
The seamount measures 15 nautical miles in circumference; summit's peak at 300 meters while base touches 1,500 meters-- Photo: Nekton
Mohamed Rehan
01 October 2022, MVT 13:31

The Nekton Maldives Mission makes history after the expeditors mapped a deep-sea mountain off the coast of Maldives; famously known among Maldivian fishermen as ‘Satho Rahaa.’

The area is called "Satho Rahaa" by local fisherman in honor of the Japanese scientist who first attempted to explore it over a generation ago.

While the peak was marked on navigational charts earlier during the mid-20th century, and some mapping attempted since; it never came to fruition until now. The area is known for its rich tuna schools, sharks and other underwater life. The location of the seamount is confirmed to lie north of the equator.

This little-known tuna ‘spawn’ hotspot came into the mission’s notice due to the enigmatic nature of the location. While the actual depth of the area has been heavily contested historically, the exact shape is another element of the location that has been completely shrouded in mystery. The estimations of the peak depth vary from 15 meters to 300 meters below the surface.

Satho Raha seamount mapped using sonar technology -- photo: Nekton

As it turns out, the mission was finally able to provide clarity about the actual depth of the summit.

According to Professor Lucy Woodall, Nekton's Principal Scientist, the mount is 15 nautical miles in circumference and the peak is at a depth of 300 meters from the surface while the base of the summit was recorded at 1,500 meters. Speaking about the latest mission of the expedition, Dr. Ahmed Riyaz Jauhary, a marine biologist from Maldives Marine Research Institute (MMRI) said the survey mainly attempted to identify the biological species around the summit, and ascertain reasons for their attraction to the area.

The mission reportedly opted for multi-beam mapping technology, which slowly created an accurate picture of the area line by line. According to Nekton the topography collected through this in-depth survey will be used to support Maldivian policymakers towards sustainable management of the waters surrounding the area.

While Nekton’s mission was unable to launch submersible to capture images, nor other surveying methods were executed to explore the seamount owing to the sea state, the mission was however successful in creating a clearer image through sonar technology after 12 hours after it had commenced the survey.

This multi dimensions map created by the team will now “be eagerly studied by the fishermen for whom the waters around the seamount are their livelihood.” Moreover, the mission will remain at sea until October 7 and continue document the deep reefs of the Maldives.

The achievement by Nekton is not only remarkable but historic since only 300 such underwater summits have been properly sampled or surveyed – now ‘Satho Rahaa’ enters this list. Surveys confirms the global ocean area boasts of over 100,000 underwater summits with peaks at 1,000 meters from surface; Maldives alone has 34 such summits.