The Seath family is far from your ordinary neighborhood household. While most families have concerns about their kids’ grades or keeping their property to HOA standards, the Seaths have a different motivation.
That’s why they packed their bags, abandoned their United Kingdom home, and relocated to an uninhabited island off the coast of East Africa. They were going to change the world…if they could just find a way to make their mission succeed.
You can imagine the confusion on the faces of daughters Georgina and Josephine Seath when their parents, Karolina and Barry, told them they were uprooting their lives in the United Kingdom to relocate off the coast of Africa.
Life was going to be a bit different in their new home in the Seychelles, a group of 112 islands located in the Indian Ocean. It was one specific island, though, the parents were heading towards.
This was called Moyenne Island, and since the 1970s it existed as a flora and fauna reserve. The island is small, measuring only 1,312 feet long by 984 feet wide, but the beauty is impossible to ignore.
It was a huge task, but once the family finally settled into the island, they connected with local biologists to get a proper tour of the surrounding nature, which all four instantly fell in love with.
So, why exactly did Karolina and Barry pull their kids out of school and completely change their lives? It all had to do with a vital aspect of the waters surrounding the island.
They were all about the coral reef. Years ago the reef around Moyenne Island could be seen in the shallow waters, but now it wasn’t the vibrant coral they once knew.
Rising sea temperatures ravaged much of the surrounding area and left the coral looking decrepit, brittle, and a depressing shade of gray. The Seaths wanted to breathe life back into it. They knew something most of the world didn’t.
The Ocean Agency
This was the kind of coral reef everyone wanted to see, not the devastated patches the water was currently riddled with. Luckily, marine biologists were already hard at work trying to bring everything back to its heyday. That caught the Seaths’ attention.
Giordano Cipriani / Getty Images
Groups were working tirelessly to bring the coral reef life back into all the world’s oceans. Once the Seaths learned about the reefs’ struggles, it was a motivating factor to hopefully help make a big change.
The Nature Conservancy
Barry said of the move, “We are just a normal family, but we both felt the need to make a positive change for ourselves, our children and the world we had largely taken for granted.”
The family had previously taken several holiday vacations to the Seychelles, and every time they went snorkeling they noticed the reef gradually depleting in quantity and quality, and now roughly 90 percent of it was dead. But what could they do?
The Seaths teamed up with the Marine Conservation Society Seychelles who specialized in coral reef to work on building the biggest coral reef farm in the Indian Ocean, a massive, but incredibly worthwhile, three-month undertaking.
The mission was to regrow 10,000 corals a year! The only other coral farm in the world was located on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, which is the largest coral reef on the planet. Interestingly, Moyenne Island is also a national park.
Grant Faint / Getty Images
It became a national park in 2012 when a man named Brendon Grimshaw, the island’s sole inhabitant, passed away. Grimshaw himself did incredible things for the land when he began living there in 1962.
Being a huge conservationist, Grimshaw planted thousands of trees over the course of his lifetime and even introduced giant tortoises. Barry said, “We hope to honor Brendan’s legacy by using the island for our first coral farm.”
The coral farm was far from the only action the Seaths wanted to see. They planned on dividing up responsibilities such as educational tours to local school as well as tourists. They even set up a charity to raise funds.
The Cairns Post
It’s called the Coral Reef Conservation U.K., and the family hopes for donations from individuals and corporations alike. Barry’s hopeful people will help, saying “It’s a real opportunity to make a massive difference for a small amount of money.”
Even though this was a massive change for Georgina and Josephine, they were equally excited about the opportunity. Georgina said, “I’m excited to move abroad and learn more about the world. I hope we can make a real difference.”
One has to commend the Seaths for the adventure they’re embarking on. It’s never easy to leave everything you know behind, but their intentions are praiseworthy. They know plenty of other conservationists have their backs.
Anton Petrus / Getty Images
Conservationists like those found near the Great Barrier Reef. As the largest reef system in the world, it is a natural wonder, home to thousands of species. Tragically, though it is an essential part of our global environment, it is slipping away more and more each day. People are fighting for it.
Sunlover Reef Cruises
Global warming poses the biggest threat to the reef. As the Earth’s temperature climbs, many of the organisms there simply cannot survive. The implications are bigger than almost anyone can imagine.
The most visible side effect of the heat is coral bleaching. Unfavorable temperatures force the coral to shoot off the algae that sticks to it and helps keep it alive. While the bleaching looks chillingly beautiful, it results in nothing but mass death.
Before long, the coral dies along with most of the ecosystem. Scientists discovered that over half of the Great Barrier Reef is now decimated. Though modern technology is largely to blame, some machines are fighting this dangerous trend.
The New Yorker
Roboticist Matthew Dunbabin, left, unveiled a plan to start making the Great Barrier Reef a safer place for coral. He proposed that they start small and target one of the nastiest natural threats under the sea.
Unlike other dwindling species, the crown-of-thorns starfish was doing just fine. The venomous animals feast on the coral and rapidly multiply, becoming one of the few reef populations to actually grow.
Thanks to a $750,000 grant, Matthew developed a means of keeping these vicious predators at bay. In 2014, he proudly debuted the RangerBot, an underwater android that looks like a toy submarine. However, it’s anything but a toy.
RangerBot’s computer can easily identify crown-of-thorns starfish from a distance, but it also packs a punch. Months earlier, scientists learned that certain types of mammal bile are poisonous to these reef predators.
So, Matthew loaded RangerBot with the bile and equipped it with an extendable needle. Once it located a starfish, the robot could inject the serum into each of its twenty arms.
With just a few pokes, RangerBot would administer a swift demise to the starfish! Brilliant as the idea was, maneuvering the robot was tricky. And if Matthew missed any of a starfish’s arms, the beast would survive.
Even the groundbreaking technology behind RangerBot couldn’t save the reef. Stopping the starfish wasn’t a comprehensive enough solution, that much was clear. Matthew asked his colleagues for some help.
His friend Peter Harrison, a marine ecologist, assured Matthew that RangerBot was far from a lost cause. Maybe they could start using it differently. For example, what if the robot gave life instead of death?
Peter had been studying a strand of heat resistant coral, species that could theoretically survive the areas most affected by climate change. Once artificial intelligence pinpointed the hardiest types of this coral, divers went in to collect samples.
Meanwhile, Matthew made some upgrades to his precious creation. Instead of unleashing its deadly needle, the robot would travel along damaged sections of the reef and emit tiny coral organisms.
Matthew and Peter dubbed it Larvalbot. Using the heat resistant specimens gathered from other parts of the world, hopefully, their submersible would be able to repopulate reefs everywhere. By 2018, it was ready for its first test.
LarvalBot made its maiden voyage at Vlasoff Reef, not far from the northeastern coast of Australia. Its basic systems all appeared to be functioning properly, but then the moment of truth arrived.
Once it reached the ideal spot, the robot dispersed coral spawn all over the damaged reef. Its tank empty, Larvalbot made its way back to the surface. All Peter and Matthew could do was wait.
Initial signs were encouraging. The baby coral organisms settled in, but truth be told, it is still too early to judge whether the operation is a success. Researchers need more time to determine if the new population will survive.
But if the coral population does start to bounce back, Matthew and Peter have an aggressive plan for Larvalbot. They hope to deploy millions more spawn all over the Pacific, and there’s no time to lose.
Even if Larvalbot rescues the Great Barrier Reef from the brink of annihilation, it won’t be enough to reverse climate change. Plenty of other crises are erupting throughout Earth’s waters, though innovators are coming up with ways to turn the tide. Look at the Gulf of Oman, for instance.
The Gulf of Oman is located in the Arabian Sea, just south of Iran and north of Oman. The gulf (also known as a strait) makes up about 65,000 square miles of the sea and is approximately 2.3 miles at its deepest. It’s also incredibly dangerous.
This water is heavily used as a shipping route. It’s the only way to transport oil from the Persian Gulf and is the only water entrance from the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean. This has long made it a point of contention for those in the region.
Ali Mohammedi / Bloomberg
Take all that, then add the invasion of Iran by Iraq and the North-West Pakistan conflict, and it’s no wonder scientists have steered clear. No one wants to explore in the midst of political turmoil.
On top of the political violence, the Gulf of Oman and the surrounding waters are known for piracy. With the area of interest being so vast and deep, scientists needed extensive time in the strait for their research. That just wasn’t possible — until now.
Pxhere via RT
Thanks to advances in technology, scientists saw an opportunity to change history. This tech allowed researchers to perform and collect extensive data while also staying far away from any known danger zones.
With this technology in mind, scientists with the England University of East Anglia (UEA) and the Sultan Qaboos University hatched a plan to study the waters of the Gulf of Oman. They would be some of the first to do so in over 50 years.
First, the UEA and the Sultan Qaboos University compiled what little existing data they could find about the region. There were some long-standing concerns about the water they wanted to investigate.
Bastien Y. Queste / Twitter
The team, led by UEA’s Dr. Bastien Queste, used two underwater robots, also known as Seagliders, to enter the dangerous Gulf of Oman. These two robot submarines were unmanned and controlled by a remote control above sea level.
Dr. Sergey Piontkovksi / Sultan Qaboos University
These were the perfect bots for the job. The Seagliders can dive more than 3,000 feet! They’re also better at collecting data and can stay submerged for much longer than human divers.
While deployed, the Seaglider scanned the water and then collected the crucial new data. When that was done, the information would be transferred back to the scientists via satellite.
The two underwater robots traveled the Gulf of Oman for eight months collecting data. Scientists were interested in oxygen levels in that part of the Arabian Sea and how that oxygen travels throughout the water. The Seagliders were the key to getting that information.
Dr. Sergey Piontkovksi / Sultan Qaboos University
As the scientists slowly began to receive the satellite data, they expected to see lower-than-average levels of oxygen — but not as low as the results they got! The alarming data was consistent across the board for a total surveyed area that was the size of Scotland.
The data showed that about 63,000 square miles of the Gulf of Oman were nearly depleted of oxygen, making it a dead zone. Dr. Queste said, “The Arabian Sea is the largest and thickest dead zone in the world.”
Oxygen is vital to aquatic ecosystems, yet scientists have been discovering dead zones like this one all over the world. Tragically, it’s believed that there are approximately 95,000 square miles of oxygen-depleted waters on the planet right now.
According to scientists, dead zones usually occur at depths between 650 to 2,600 feet. But climate change and various environmental factors can cause dead zones to be much worse than even that.
Josh Haner / The New York Times
As the climate changes and the Earth’s temperature rises, the oceans are heating up, and warmer water contains less oxygen. Worse still, when low-oxygen water is processed, nitrous oxide is produced instead of carbon dioxide, and that’s 300 times more harmful to our atmosphere.
Dr. Queste explained, “Our research shows that the situation is actually worse than feared – and that the area of the dead zone [in the Gulf of Oman] is vast and growing. The ocean is suffocating.”
Bastien Y. Queste / Twitter
Dead zones don’t just pose a threat to wildlife. If the oxygen in the world’s oceans become “dead,” then people who rely on the ocean for food and employment will be drastically affected.
Robert K. Brigham
But hope isn’t lost. Past research has used computer simulation to predict the expansion of dead zones, but not with great accuracy. Now, with Dr. Queste and his team’s research, a clearer picture may be possible in the future.
Until then, what they do know is that the wildlife is trying to adapt to these changes. This often leaves them confined to smaller, unfamiliar strata. In the end, will we be able to use this data to prevent world catastrophe? Only the future knows.
U.S. Geological Survey / Flickr