Glimpse of rich eco-system as divers plumb Antarctic seas

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Rare footage of the Antarctic seas from under the ice has been captured by Royal Navy explosive clearance divers as they undergo training in the extreme conditions.

The images were taken as the four divers from the navy’s ice patrol ship HMS Protector carried out survey work to ensure that stringent environmental guidelines were being followed in the region.

Among the locations inspected by the divers was the wreck site of the sunken Argentine research vessel the MV Bahia Paraiso.

When it ran aground in 1989, the ship spilled 645,000 litres of diesel and caused one of the worst marine environmental emergencies in Antarctica to date.

A recent Argentine and Dutch team carefully removed all traces of fuel.

HMS Protector’s dive team was tasked to ensure there was no further leakage and using underwater cameras they were able to confirm that the diesel flow had ceased and also identified a rich eco-system of sponges and aquatic life.

Leading Diver Chris Hayes, the team leader, said: “Diving in Antarctica is inconceivably amazing, with diverse aquatic life and breathtaking sea bed topography.”

The team also explored a dormant sunken volcano and surfaced to an audience of penguins.