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It's ridiculous that this is possible...bringing the deep sea up so that you can walk among it??? I love aquariums so much...

The Monterrey Bay Aquarium is about two hours south of San Francisco and exists in partnership with the Monterrey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, which are the folks who do a lot of the science and did most of the collections for the Into the Deep Exhibit.


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[Claps] [Hiccups] pfh aaagh [Burps] My goodness.

Good morning John. So I've noticed that for the last few videos, you are basically doing just whatever I am doing. I did low budget Bo Burnham, you did low budget Bo Burnham. I did a Google autofill thing, you did a Google autofill thing. I think this is cheating, or at least lazy, and so I am gonna make it hard for you by taking you behind the scenes to one of the most advanced aquarium exhibits in the whole world.

I actually got to tour this exhibit before it actually existed to see the complexity of what makes it all come together. Because you'd think, "Ok, an aquarium on the coast, that can't be that complicated. Pumps seawater in, put fish in the seawater, and it's beautiful." Well, it is more complicated than that, and 3 years ago I actually made a whole video about it and you can watch it. But, not all ocean is the same. In particular, it's very different at different depths and there are animals in the deep sea that basically no one gets to see. It's extremely hard to go down there. It's also hard to get the animals to the surface and once they're at the surface, the sea water is so different from the water of the deep sea that they cannot survive in it. But at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, they wanted people to be able to walk amongst the animals of the deep sea, just to exist in the same space as them. And if you go to that exhibit, which I have not been able to do yet, you can do just that. You are in the dark, walking through halls, surrounded by animals that typically inhabit the most difficult to visit place on Earth. And it is designed to appear to the people walking through the exhibit that that's all fairly effortless. It's just something for you to enjoy, not for you to understand the engineering behind how it is possible.

But before the exhibit opened, I got to see how that seemingly effortless cohabitation between humans and deep sea animals is actually extremely complicated and fairly precarious. So, when I walked into this, I thought the hardest part of this process was going to be pressurizing the water to the same pressures as the deep sea because water is very heavy, and down at the bottom of the ocean, there is a lot of water on top of you. Enough pressure to very easily kill you, but I, y'know, I need to exist at a certain pressure of atmospheric pressure in order to exist, and the difference between the ocean pressure at the bottom of the sea and the ocean pressure at the top of the sea is bigger than the difference between air pressure at sea level and space. But many deep sea creatures don't have very much gas inside of them, so if you bring them up slowly enough, they'll be fine.

So if you don't actually have to pressurize the water, what's the concern? The trouble is that the seawater itself is different. It has higher salinity, very consistent low temperature, and really consistent gas concentrations that are very different from surface level water. And so, behind every wall at Into the Deep, there are systems that take water from Monterey Bay and turn it into a simulation of deep sea water. And it turns the hardest part of this is removing the perfect amount of oxygen. Oxygen is great, but it is also a super reactive molecule, and these animals are used to an environment with a super low oxygen concentration. The oxygen of surface sea level would absolutely kill many of them, and so all of the water in this aquarium must be run through equipment that was designed, I'm not kidding, for semiconductor and pharmaceutical manufacturing among other things. Situations where they really need to control the amount of different chemicals in a system. By running the water over tons of tiny thin membrane straws with very low pressure inside, the oxygen basically gets sucked out of the water, flowing into the area of lower oxygen. But of course they can't take out too much or the animals with asphyxiate. It has to be perfectly balanced every hour of every day.

I cannot go to the deep sea and I probably shouldn't. I should leave that to the researchers who are dedicated to understanding and protecting it. But the people at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and places like them, have worked extremely hard to bring those environments, those other worlds, within our our own to as many of us as they can. To inspire wonder and joy and awe at the marvels of our planet and the curiosity and ingenuity of the people who inhabit it.

John, I'll see you on Tuesday.