Greenpeace submarine captures rare footage of the Antarctic seafloor ‘carpeted with life’

Press release - 23 January, 2018
SYDNEY, January 24, 2018: Greenpeace International has released its first submarine footage from a part of the Antarctic seafloor never before visited by humans.

The footage shows a seafloor ‘carpeted with life’ as well as ‘clear indications of a vulnerable marine ecosystem’ — strong evidence of the need for an Antarctic Ocean Sanctuary to protect species like whales and penguins.

The submarine dive footage is available here

Greenpeace is currently in the Antarctic campaigning for an ocean sanctuary covering 1.8 million square kilometres, which would be the largest protected area on Earth.

John Hocevar, a Greenpeace US marine biologist who piloted the submarine, described the team’s first dive in the Antarctic Ocean as “amazing”.

“I really didn't know what to expect, but we saw so much life, it was very diverse. There were a lot of species of sponges, corals, sea squirts, a lot of different kinds of sea stars and their relatives, basket stars, feather stars,” he said.

“It was just incredible how the whole bottom was carpeted with life. I really didn't expect it. I hope the work we're doing down here shows exactly why we need to protect this precious ecosystem.”

Dr Susanne Lockhart, an Antarctic biologist who visited the seafloor in a two-person submarine, said there were clear indications of a vulnerable marine ecosystem in the initial footage gathered at the seabed.

“We’ll be doing further exploration of the bottom of the sea to help determine specific areas that should be a priority for protection from commercial fishing in these pristine waters, as well as building a body of evidence to support proposals for protection in the Antarctic Ocean,” she said.

Frida Bengtsson, head of Greenpeace’s Protect the Antarctic campaign, said:

“Over half a million people have already backed the call for an Antarctic Ocean Sanctuary - a 1.8 million square kilometre safe haven for penguins and whales. The movement to create the biggest protected area on Earth is growing by the day.”

Greenpeace Australia Pacific Antarctic campaigner Alix Foster Vander Elst, said more than 30,000 Australians had shown their support for an Antarctic Ocean Sanctuary roughly the size of Queensland.

“The research Greenpeace is undertaking will bolster the case for protecting iconic Antarctic species by safeguarding the ocean they live in,” she said.

“Penguins should not have to compete with industrial fishing vessels for their next meal. The way to keep them out of this lopsided fight is by putting the Weddell Sea off limits to commercial fishing through an Antarctic Ocean Sanctuary.”

The Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise is on a three-month expedition to the Antarctic to carry out scientific research, including seafloor submarine dives and sampling for plastic pollution, to highlight the urgent need for the creation of the world’s largest protected area to safeguard fragile Antarctic ecosystems.

The proposal for the sanctuary has been submitted by the EU and is backed by the German Government. It will be considered when the Antarctic Ocean Commission next convenes, in Hobart, in October.

Key footage gathered from the submarine dives will be submitted to the Antarctic Ocean Commission for both specific, localised, protection as well as strengthening proposals for marine protection in the Antarctic.


The release comes a day after “Stranger Things” star David Harbour rose to a Twitter challenge to reach 200,000 retweets in order to join Greenpeace’s Antarctic expedition.


See footage from the submarine dives here

See photos of the submarine dives and the expedition here

Learn more about the campaign here




Media contacts:

Martin Zavan, Greenpeace Australia Pacific Media Campaigner, 0424 295 422,

Luke Massey, Antarctic Global Communications Lead, Greenpeace UK, , +44 (0) 7973 873 155

Greenpeace International Press Desk, , +31 (0) 20 718 2470 (available 24 hours)