Deep beneath the ocean surface, in Bubbly Gulch off Vancouver Island, a crab doing an inadvertent backflip has given scientists new information about the world’s largest source of untapped fossil energy.
The crab was taking a Jacuzzi-style bath in bubbles of methane gas
percolating from the ocean floor in Barkley Canyon when its muddy face
was caught by cameras on Wally the Crawler, NEPTUNE Canada’s undersea
The methane bubbles — which are lighter than water — stuck under the
crab’s shell, upsetting its balance and fascinating NEPTUNE scientists
looking at the changing rates of bubbles and whether a warming ocean is
affecting the ice-encased gas hydrates.
“This is cutting edge. There’s no other place in the world where they
are monitoring hydrates like we do,” said Kate Moran, president of
Oceans Network Canada, which manages the University of Victoria-led
NEPTUNE underwater laboratory.
Gas hydrates, structures formed from a mixture of water and gas, have
long interested scientists and energy companies, but they are stable
only at high pressure or low temperature.
“If you are quick enough and put a match to it, it burns in your hand,” said NEPTUNE gas hydrates researcher Martin Scherwath.