The Atacama Basin, or the Chilean Trench, is located at the junction of two tectonic plates: the South American and Nazca. Previously, not a single person descended into it. All studies were carried out using remotely controlled unmanned aerial vehicles.
At a depth of more than 100 meters, scientists saw unusual geological structures, as well as the inhabitants of the depression. So, they noticed holothurians, or translucent sea cucumbers that look like jelly. This species has probably not been previously identified.
In addition, the researchers found microbial communities that were previously unknown in the Atakama depression. They fed on organic and inorganic compounds.
Scientists have not been able to determine what type of bacteria and what these compounds are. To find answers to these questions, they intend to plunge back to the bottom of the trough.
Other scientific projects are also planned. The Chile Trench is known as an extremely seismic zone. This region has caused many earthquakes and tsunamis.
Scientists intend to install three sensors on the South American Plate and two on the Nazca Plate to see how the ocean floor is deforming. Currently, such devices exist only on land. Sensors will allow tracking in which areas dangerous energy accumulates, and thus predicting the zone of future tremors.
“This is an incredibly ambitious project. The largest experiment that has been carried out in the field of underwater geology here in Chile,” Ulloa emphasized.
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