Hang a Left at the Brain Coral

Space, said Star Trek, is the final frontier. And mankind obsessed over it in the decades to follow, nearly forgetting about the deep blue frontier on earth. "Currently, there are better maps of the surface of the moon and Mars than the sea bottom off Florida's coastline," bemoans John Reed, a research professor at FAU's Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute.

Reed seeks to soon remedy this oversight. Come midday Thursday, Reed and other intrepid explorers will motor out from Fort Pierce for a 6-day map-making expedition. The seafarers will travel north along the coast, past Cape Canaveral, while self-contained underwater contraptions snap high-definition sonar images of the sea floor. 

Each canary yellow REMUS 6000 hydroid weighs in at 1,950 pounds. The exploration vehicles, complete with little propellers, resemble submarine missiles. Each mission will reap a mesh of images similar to the path a lawn mower might cut across a suburban grass lawn. 

The little critters can explore depths 3.7 miles below the ocean surface, all by themselves. At last, we'll be able to detect -- and perhaps ameliorate -- the damage we're doing to the ecosystems of our deep seas.  

Or, at the very least, we'll have a nifty GPS system to market to the Snorks.

 -- Amy Guthrie

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