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    Using compact video camera technology for rapid deep-sea benthic habitat assessment

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    G.P. Ewing, R. Kilpatrick, A.J. Constable and D.C. Welsford (Australia)

    A compact, autonomous deep sea video system designed and constructed by the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) for deployment on commercial fishing gear to observe interactions with the Southern Ocean benthos, has a wider application in deep-sea marine research. The use of the system as a drop camera for broad-scale and rapid deep-sea benthic habitat assessment, during a recent AAD marine science voyage on the shelf-break of East Antarctica, greatly improved the efficiency of selection of sites for quantitative sampling. The system is also promoted for estimates of krill biomass, swarm dynamics and reproduction, and ground-truthing remote data for habitat mapping. The main advantages of using this system as a drop camera included: 1. Rapid: Three, two minute replicates of footage at 1000m, including recovery and viewing of footage was typically accomplished in well under one hour. 2. Compact: Simplified deck operations due to the autonomous nature, compact architecture, and absence of camera to ship umbilical. 3. Simple to operate: No requirement for opening the pressure housing to download data leads to reduced training needs. 4. Robust: The unit was deployed successfully while the vessel was surrounded by sea ice.