The drone’s camera has been equipped with a retractable dark filter in the hope to prevent overexposure from the bioluminescence.
I will be deploying the sub alone, equipped with one of our hazmat suits, on the southern shore of Vae’s delta. As close to the Amarina as the irregular terrain of fungi roots will allow.
The drone’s tether is passed through the end of a long grounded pole in the hope to keep it from tangling in the floating mat of roots.
I have now joined the others a few meters from the fungi forest and am slowly unraveling the large spool of wire as we all observe the small screen with excitement.
Surface level – The yellow glow completely overwhelms the camera sensor. We follow the vague shadow of the gentle coastal slope.
-10m – The slope we’re following seems much steeper. Up and down are now distinguishable as the phytoplankton concentration has greatly diminished. The seafloor consists mostly of unidentified sediment with the occasional presence of swollen fungi logs that seem to dissolve slowly. Some of the spongy logs are covered in small dark unidentified mollusks.
-20m – The light level is still more than sufficient for navigation and has evolved into a fiery orange tint. Distant fast-moving shadows indicate the presence of rapid conical creatures. They seem too disturbed by our presence to be observed which is a strong hint of high levels of predation. The natural slope has become shallower and filled with mineral and organic debris which form lush labyrinths. In this landscape, a variety of soft-bodied beings roam amongst intricate sedimentary structures.
-50m – The light level has significantly dropped and the onboard lights are now required for navigation. Here we are met with a large group of sizable creatures passing through the beam of light but their shapes are too foreign to be classified. Their vertical bodies seem to be protected by a crescent moon-shaped semi-hard shell the top of which enlarges and opens up to reveal a plethora of appendages around a central circular membrane. The membrane stretches into a shallow cone that faces upwards and is only slightly shorter than the rest of the body. This flock of peacefully floating umbrellas is only disturbed by long filament-like organisms that meander around them in an opalescent shimmer.
-100m – In the complete lack of bearings the sub continues its dive very close to the almost vertical cliff of shelled creatures and other unidentified organisms. While this busy wall is beaming with life and activity the vast expanse beyond is only interrupted by the occasional distant glimmer.
– 300m – The shallower slope of rock is now much more barren and forces us to travel further away from the coast, rapidly consuming what’s left of the 2000m tether. Additionally, the onboard power has started draining abnormally quickly. Over the last hundred meters, the previously distant glimmers had turned into bright and colorful constellations of bioluminescence. These natural fireworks light up and change in complex interacting patterns.
-378m – The power is critically low and communications are cutting more and more. We admire the spectacle one last time before engaging in a rapid ascent. We catch a glimpse of some much larger creatures or colonies yet the scale is very difficult to determine in this fluorescent dreamworld and the video feed has gotten worse.
Evan, in his bright blue hazmat suit, pulls one last time on the pole holding the tether and the submersible’s silhouette becomes more defined against the yellow glow. He manages to grab it and deposit it in a large tub for it to be rinsed repeatedly and left to dry. Only then will it be safe to handle again.