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Friday, May 24, 2019

Research for Shark Station

Research for Shark’s Station

While Oceania: The Underwater City took a lot of research to complete and Allie’s Return considerably less, Shark Station fell somewhere in between. I found myself returning to researching space science and in particular, how to live on a space station. I also had to learn about growing food in an isolated environment without sunlight and soil. And of course, I had to research more about some of the animals I wished to feature in the novel. In all, a week of intense research gave me enough information to write the latest adventure of Allie’s and Dylan’s. Here’s just a small portion of what I learned.

Setting: The Sirena Deep

When I set out to write this novel, I knew I didn’t want to choose the iconic Challenger Deep to place the story. It was too well known and didn’t make sense for a secret research station for Oceanians to be kept safe from Land Dwellers if it’s a place people continually strive to dive to. Instead, I decided on the second-deepest part of the ocean, but upon commencement of my research, I noticed an obvious problem. There is almost no research on the Sirena Deep. Besides the knowledge of how deep it is, little is known about what lives there. I try to be cautious in my research and use as many primary sources as I can. However, when researching the Sirena Deep, all the notes I took didn’t even take up one page of a Word document.

So, here’s what I found in bullet form:
·      Sirena Deep is 200km (124 miles) east of Challenger Deep’s location
·         The depth is 10,809m (35,462ft)
·         Microbial mats that fed on hydrogen and methane were found there
·         Sirena Deep is 144.8 km (90mi) south of Guam
·         Sirena Deep was discovered in 1997
·         The location of Sirena Deep is 12.0654° N, 144.5811° E.

To read the scant research yourself, you can click on the below links:

Mariana Trench

After realizing there was so little research on the Sirena Deep, I looked into the Mariana Trench next. To my (by now) no surprise, there wasn’t a lot about the Mariana Trench either, but it was substantially more than the Sirena Deep. The trench ranges from 6,000 to 10,000m (19,685-36,089ft) and is shaped in an arc that is 2,550km (1,584.5mi) long and 50km (31.1mi) wide. Over 200 different types of microorganisms were discovered in the mud collected by James Cameron in the Challenger Deep. Within the trench, there are several submarine volcanoes. The pressure at the bottom of the Mariana trench is 8 tons per square inch or (703kg per square m). Scientists on the HMS Challenger used sounding equipment to discover the trench in 1875. There are hydrothermal vents that emit acidic hydrogen sulfide. Bacteria eat this sulfide and are at the bottom of the food chain down there. Temperatures surrounding these vents can be up to 300°C (572°F). Animals that live at the bottom of the trench are estimated to live a long time due to the cold, some estimates go as far as 100 years or more.  Instead of photosynthesis, chemosynthesis creates the basis of the food chain.

To read more about the Mariana Trench, click on some of my research links below:

Growing Food in Space

For researching how to grow food in an environment lacking in sunlight and soil, I once again looked to NASA. I learned about how hydroponics works and was amazed by it. It was not only a viable solution for the Shark Station inhabitants, but also for people in general in both Oceania and the Above World. Hydroponics works by using a bit of soil usually placed in a soil pack, water, and an alternative light source such as an LED light. The main problem with this method of growing food is the bacteria and fungus problems it can create. A lot of specifics goes into how hydroponics works and it gets quite detailed, so if you want to learn more about it from a better resource than myself (aka NASA), click the below links.

Like with Allie’s Return, most of the rest of the research focused on the marine animals featured in the novel, which you’ve already read about in the three previous blog posts. If you missed them, you can find them at the following links: part 1, part 2, and part 3.

I hope you enjoyed reading some of my research for the novel and have been inspired to do some more of your own. If your interest has been piqued, feel free to click any of the above links to learn more. If you have any comments, you can leave them here on my blog or email me directly at elizataye@gmail.com.

Friday, May 3, 2019

Sea Creatures Part 3 – Animals of the Abyss


We’ve reached the final blog post for sea creatures featured in Shark Station. In this post, I’ll be covering the mysterious creatures of the deep. If you’ve happened to miss the previous two parts of this special, click here for part 1 and here for part 2. Except for the barreleye fish, the other creatures in this blog post were new to me until I began researching for this novel. However, scientific research is still lacking for each species featured in this post, so I’ll apologize now for the limited information. If you’d like to read more, you can click my reference links at the bottom.   

Dumbo octopus

NOAA Okeanos Explorer [Public domain]

There are over 15 known species of Dumbo octopuses, but the one featured in Shark Station is Grimpoteuthis abyssicola. The Dumbo octopus gets its common name from the Disney movie because of its large fins that resemble ears. G. abyssicola stands out compared to other Dumbo octopuses due to the blue coloration on its mantle, with pink “ear flaps” that are actually its fins. Typically, they are between 20-30cm (7.9-11.8in) long, but the largest recorded individual weighed 5.9kg (13lbs) and was 1.8m (5.9ft) long(1). Distributed throughout the Pacific Ocean from Oregon down to New Zealand, they live between depths of 3,000-7,000m (9842.5-22,965.9ft). Their diet consists of crustaceans like amphipods, copepods, isopods and also bristle worms. They find their food either floating in the ocean or lurking around hydrothermal vents(2). As for creatures that prey on the Dumbo octopus, sharks, tuna, and marine mammals such as dolphins are their main predators(1).
The Dumbo octopus is also nicknamed the “umbrella octopus;” the reason being their various ways of movement(2). Most commonly they use their fins to “flap” through the water and their tentacles to steer(1). However, they can also expand or contract their webbed tentacles, which resembles the opening and closing of an umbrella, hence their nickname. Other forms of locomotion include forcing water through their funnel to gain a burst of speed or crawling on their tentacles(2).

Dumbo octopuses differ from other octopus in a variety of ways. For one, they lack an ink sack other octopus species use to evade predation(1). Unlike other octopuses, they don’t have to use their beak to tear into their food. They have a degenerated radula that permits them to swallow prey intact(2). Dumbo octopuses are oviparous and lay their eggs on the ocean floor. The females are able to retain sperm and allow fertilization of their eggs at any time, which suggests that there is no breeding period for this genus(1).

According to the IUCN Red List, this species is data deficient as of August 20, 2014, meaning that not enough data has been collected on them to assess whether or not their populations are at risk(3).

If you would like to see footage of a Dumbo octopus swimming courtesy of the Smithsonian Institute, click here


Gerringer M. E., Linley T. D., Jamieson A. J., Goetze E., Drazen J. C. [CC BY 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)]

Although there are over 300 species of snailfish, the one seen in Shark Station is Pseudoliparis swirei, which is known as the Mariana snailfish. They are pinkish-white in coloration with translucent skin that allows the internal organs and muscles to be seen beneath the skin. They have small eyes and the rows of teeth increases with the size of the fish. Unlike many other species of fish, snailfish have no scales. They range from 89-235mm (3.5-9.3in) long and live at depths of 6,900-8,000m (22,637.8-26,246.7ft). As they were recently discovered, very little is known about this species(4).

To see video footage of a live snailfish, click here

Barreleye Fish


The barreleye fish (Macropinna microstoma) are peculiar-looking fish that have eyes facing upward instead of outward(5). The area where most people mistake their eyes to be are actually their olfactory organs. The eyes rest in a green fluid that fills the entire front area of the head. Their head is translucent, which allows the barreleye to see through its head to its prey lurking above. Ambush predators, they lie in wait before attacking their prey. To scan for prey, they have the ability to rotate their eyes. While they wait, their flat fins allow them to lie motionless in the water and only take off once prey has been detected. Jellyfish and other cnidarians make up their diet but it is also thought that they may eat zooplankton(5)(7). Since they have a large digestive system, it suggests that they may eat a variety of drifting animals(6).

Solitary creatures that live in the mesopelagic zone, their distribution ranges from The Bering Sea in the North, Japan to the West, and Baja California in the South. In the Pacific Ocean, they are known to live at depths of 16-1267m (52.5-4,156.8ft) and they have been caught in trawl nets as deep as 3600m (11,811ft) (7). However, they are distributed worldwide in all but the polar oceans(5).

If you'd like to see a live specimen of a barreleye fish, check out this video by Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI).

This concludes the last sea creature feature for Shark Station. I hope you enjoyed reading it. From now on until the next special, the blog posts will be released every three weeks. As usual, my next blog post will be the sharing of some of the research I conducted for the novel (beyond that on the sea creatures). In the meantime, if you have any questions or comments, you can leave them here on my blog or email me at elizataye@gmail.com. I always love hearing from my readers!