20 Incredible Photos Of Life Deep In The Gulf Of Mexico

Published January 16, 2018
Updated January 7, 2019

The 23-day exploration by NOAA set out to discover more about the previously-unknown habitat at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, and the marine life that calls it home.

Mysid shrimp hangs on a umbellula sea pen
A mysid shrimp hangs on to the limbs of an umbellula sea pen. NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research

Cusk Eel
A cusk eel floats past the submersible at 1,585 feet. NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research

Darwin Slimehead
A Darwin's slimehead, hovers a few feet off the seafloor. NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research

Chimaera Fish
A long-nosed chimaera fish swims through the dark. The sighting was a first for many researchers on the dive. NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research

Comb Jellyfish
A tiny comb jellyfish hovers just above the seafloor. NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research

Tripod Fish
A tripod fish swims above the seafloor with a parasitic isopod attached to two of its fins. NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research

Marine Smelt
This deep-water variety of marine smelt was observed by shocked researchers at 2,953 feet – roughly 4,000 feet shallower than its usual habitat. NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research

Sea Toad
The aptly named sea toad glides across the seafloor at 2.428 feet. NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research

Dumbo Octopus
Researchers were able to catch a glimpse of the elusive dumbo octopus, the deepest-dwelling octopus. NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research

Helmet Jellyfish
This deep-sea helmet jellyfish collided with the seafloor after being startled by the submersibles bright lights. NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research

Bamboo Coral Sea Star
A circle of bamboo coral grows out of the sea floor. NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research

Sea Stars on a rock
A rock outcrop on the seafloor plays host to a dense community of sea stars. NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research

Snake Sea Star
A tiny snake star is surrounded by coils of larger sea stars, 1,315 feet below the surface. NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research

Cucumber Shrimp
A fish walks across the seafloor, past a slower moving sea cucumber. NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research

Isopod and spider crab
A spider crab rides atop a giant isopod as it enters its tunnel 1,788 feet below the surface. NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research

Phaeodarean Sea Snow
A colonial tuscarorid phaeodarean feeds on marine snow at 2,300 feet. The "snow" is actually a rain of nutrients, including fish excrement, that drop down from shallow waters.NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research

Sea Spider
A deep-sea squat lobster hangs out on a coral fan. NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research

Deep Discoverer submersible
A submersible, Deep Discoverer explores a shipwreck first found in 2002. NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research

Blind sea lobsters
Two blind sea lobsters share a deep-sea burrow. NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research

Fighting deep sea crabs
Two deep-sea red crabs fight, their claws locked in an intense duel over a nearby female. NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research

Everyone knows the Gulf of Mexico is a beautiful place, but what about the things that lie beneath the surface?

In the last months of 2017, from Nov. 29 to Dec. 21, a team from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Association conducted a deep water study of the uncharted alien world that lies on the bottom of the Gulf.

The study, the first in a series of three, month-long studies, set out to explore the diversity of the habitat, as well as create a map of the previously-uncharted seafloor. The team also attempted to discover how vulnerable the marine habitats were, by studying the characteristics of the marine life and their surrounding geology.

The team used a combination of remote-operated submersibles, known as ROVs, and shore-based instruments to explore the depths for the first time.

The photos that they brought back depict the wide range of colorful life forms that inhabit the almost pitch-black depths. While the photos are definitely a first for most viewers, some of the sightings surprised even the researchers themselves.


Next, check out these photos of the creepiest deep-sea creatures out there. Then, take a look at this fisherman's photos of his craziest catches.

Katie Serena
A former staff writer at All That's Interesting, Katie Serena has also published work in Salon.
Katie Serena
A former staff writer at All That's Interesting, Katie Serena has also published work in Salon.