Biologist and photographer Alexander Semenov is the modern day Jacques Cousteau. He has spent much of his life seeking out bizarre lifeforms in unexplored parts of the world’s oceans and documenting them in unprecedented beauty. Now, he wants to take a team of scientists on a three-year, 65,000-mile journey and share what they find with everyone. But he needs our help.
Spend enough time trawling the internet for amazing underwater photography and you’ll notice that all the best shots seem to have Semenov’s name attached to them. In my mind, there isn’t anyone who has captured creatures like he has. Semenov’s latest adventure–Expedition Aquatilis–should be his biggest and most fruitful yet.
To keep bringing incredible science to the public, Semenov has now brought together a team of professionals ranging from scientists to filmmakers and started Expedition Aquatilis. The expedition is an ambitious one. Over the course of three years and many thousands of miles, Semenov and his team will document life like we’ve never seen before, and broadcast their findings in real time using YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. With 4K cameras and satellite connections, Semenov hopes to start the next truly great undersea adventure, and bring us more uniquely startling images.
It won’t be just photos; there is real scientific purpose to the Aquatilis expedition. The project is backed by half a dozen leading marine scientists, and plans to coordinate local research projects at stops all over the world. Semenov wants to focus specifically on documenting gelata, or gelatinous zooplankton. These bizarrely beautiful creatures haven’t been extensively studied and yet are critical to the health of our oceans, says Semenov.
Gelata are mostly jelly, as the name implies, and therefore disintegrate when you try to study them in labs or aquariums. Semenov wants to study them where they live, using sophisticated diving equipment and remote submersibles to scour the deep ocean for these oddities.
The trek will not be cheap. Currently, the Aquatilis team is seeking $1.5 million dollars on IndieGoGo over the next several days to fund the adventure. Much of that money will go to yacht repairs and upgrades, and the rest will cover the diving and camera equipment. It will take big donors to get there, but Aquatilis will set sail regardless of if the funding goals are met. Still, if you want to donate, there are some nice rewards like customized prints and t-shirts to show your love for the creatures of the deep.
The Aquatilus expedition is an intriguing and unique way to put yourself in a scientific adventure and to follow one in real-time. For his part, Semenov sees it as a opportunity to reach out like Cousteau once did.
“Jacques Cousteau was a pioneer who showed us the whole new world,” Semenov told me in an email exchange. “When you were a young kid like I was, there were no videos from the underwater world and [Cousteau’s videos] were like watching sci-fi movie with real-life characters!” The Aquatilis expedition hopes to follow in Cousteau’s footsteps. And like Cousteau, Semenov doesn’t see the divide between science, art, and exploration.
“It seems I was inspired in the best way. For me, scientific research means adventure. And this expedition is the biggest adventure I’ve ever planned.”
In this new media environment, with scientific funding drying up around the world, it might just take a multi-media approach to really get people excited about science again. “We are firm believers that science should not be restricted to labs. It has the potential to empower, amaze, and teach. We will show how,” says Semenov. “For me, the underwater world is the place where art meets science, so we have a chance to carefully get both.”
“The journey isn’t just for scientists, it’s for everyone!”
Kyle Hill is the Science Officer of the Nerdist Enterprise. Follow the nerdery on Twitter @Sci_Phile.
IMAGES: Copyright Alexander Semenov. All images used with permission.