We've long known there are exotic creatures at the bottom of the ocean, but the enormous difference in pressure makes it almost impossible to bring them up to the surface for study. That's why the Abyss Box is so important.
The Abyss Box is a tiny but massive tank designed to simulate the tremendous pressures of the ocean depths. Its volume is only 16 liters and features a single viewing window that's just 15 centimeters wide but 10 centimeters thick. That thickness is a byproduct of the extreme pressure inside the tank, which is maintained at 18 megapascals, the equivalent of being about a mile underwater. The water has to be changed regular, and food has to be converted from our pressure to that of the Abyss Box before it can be placed inside. The box itself weighs over 1,300 pounds, or about 2/3 of a ton.
The initial occupants of the box will be crabs and shrimp that are small enough to fit inside, although it's hoped that the box can eventually be made large enough to hold fish. Dr Bruce Shillito, a marine biologist and deep sea expert from Paris's Universite Pierre et Marie Curi, has worked on getting the Abyss Box ready for its upcoming appearance at the Oceanopolis Aquarium in Brest, France. While the box will afford visitors the first ever opportunity to see deep sea creatures up first, the primary thrust of the box is scientific research, as Dr. Shillito explained to BBC News:
"We want such basic information as the length of life of a deep-sea animal. No-one really knows how long they live, so by keeping them this way we can get that information. Of course, its information in captivity but it's better than no information at all."
The Abyss Box will go on display at Oceanopolis this April. If this works, we can only hope we'll eventually get an Abyss Box big enough to hold a giant squid or two. The box would only have to weight a few billion tons, I'd say...