A deep-sea remote operated vehicle is pictured resting on Perth Canyon floor. (Supplied: Schmidt Ocean.Org)
An underwater research device worth $200,000 that was missing for two years has been found by a team in the Perth Canyon, 60 kilometres off the Western Australian coast.
The autonomous "ocean glider", owned by the University of Western Australia (UWA), went missing on an assignment near the canyon two years ago.
A team from UWA, together with researchers from the Western Australian Museum, CSIRO and the Institute of Marine Sciences in Italy, found the device near the end of a 12-day expedition surveying the undersea canyon using a remote operated vehicle (ROV) for the first time.
The ROV was sent several kilometres into the canyon collecting samples for climate change research and streaming live vision.
The glider was found by the ROV 700 metres down on the floor of the canyon near Rottnest Island, on the side of a 100-metre cliff. Professor Chari Pattiaratchi said they had chosen that side of the canyon in the hope of finding the glider. "We managed to talk to it acoustically, by pinging it with a sound frequency, but it wasn't able to come up to surface," he said.
Lots of gliders attacked by sharks: scientist
Professor Pattiaratchi said he thought the glider may have been attacked by a shark or hit by a ship. "It's one of the risks that we take, it can get tangled, hit by a ship, and we have had lots of gliders attacked by sharks," he said.
There were celebrations aboard the ship when the glider appeared on the control screens. "There was a lot of shrieking and clapping. I mean I'm surprised that we found it to be honest," Professor Pattiaratchi said. "Now that it is there we have to bring it up."
The team hopes to recover the glider at the end of the expedition using the arm of the ROV. The scientists are onboard the vessel RV Falkor owned by the philanthropic science organisation set up by the billionaire executive chairman of Google, Eric Schmidt.
Professor Pattiaratchi said there had been a number of important discoveries made during the expedition. "We have discovered 600-metre sheer drop cliffs and structures that are found in other parts of the world," he said.
The team's research has been focused on organisms that are living at low depths, particularly deep-sea corals. Professor Pattiaratchi said the ROV had found organisms they did not expect to find. "We have seen a variety of organisms that we haven't seen before in this area and people have said that these types structures have been found in other parts of the world," he said. "We now need to analyse them to see what species they are."