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Episode 103: Corals of the Deep

In the deep waters off Florida’s Atlantic coast grow magnificent structures, capable of reaching 300 feet in height. These are the corals of the deep sea. Porcelain-white and centuries old, few humans have seen these delicate reefs. The ivory tree coral, Oculina varicosa, and Lophelia pertusa flourish in harsh, sunless environments, yet these branch-like formations provide food and shelter for a variety of deepwater organisms. Rich in biodiversity, this mysterious underwater kingdom is threatened by destructive fishing practices such as bottom trawling. However, a recently proposed 23,000 square mile marine protected area could save these fragile reefs from ruin.

Changing Seas follows scientists 50 miles offshore on a unique expedition to further pinpoint the locations of these thousand-year-old coral mounds. Using cutting-edge technology, experts from three of the country’s premier ocean research institutions have joined forces to investigate portions of Florida’s seafloor. The science team lives aboard a research vessel for seven days. Their mission: To scan the ocean bottom and create detailed maps using specially built Autonomous Underwater Vehicles or AUVs. Their results could help save Florida’s corals of the deep. But what will they find?


Meet the experts featured in this episode.

Special Thanks:


Royal Inn
222 Hernando Street
Hutchinson Island
Fort Pierce, FL 34949
(772) 672-8888


Budget Video Rentals
1825 NE 149 Street
Miami, FL 33181
(305) 945-8888

Image Credits

Changing Seas would like to thank the following individuals and institutions who kindly allowed their footage, images and other media to be used in this production:

Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute at FAU

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Waitt Institute for Discovery


The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Brian Cousin
Jan Petri
Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute at FAU

John Brooks

Liz Smith
Cherie Prothro
Waitt Institute for Discovery

Erin Koenig
Stephanie Murphy
Erika Fitzpatrick
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Dianne Saenz
Margot Stiles

Web Extras

Tour of RV Seward Johnson

Deep Sea Corals

Funding for this episode of Changing Seas was provided by: