A recent joint mission discovered an ecological treasure trove. The work was sponsored by NEOM Co. who enlisted the non-profit ocean exploration organization, OceanX, to carry out the most adventurous assessment of the northern Red Sea to date. The six-week expedition took place aboard the OceanXplorer, the most advanced exploration, research and media vessel ever built. The expedition generated scientific research into marine ecosystems, megafauna, brine pools and coral reef conservation and regeneration.
Commenting on the scientific discoveries, Nadhmi Al-Nasr, CEO of NEOM, said: “NEOM goes beyond just being a global destination for investment, technology, tourism, or industrial and commercial sectors, by partnering with scientists, and international scientific and academic institutions for research and exploration. Today, we announce that the joint mission efforts have made significant achievements in the identification of previously unknown natural areas, as well as unprecedented global scientific discoveries.”
Al-Nasr added, “NEOM was an ideal location for the expedition, as it meets all the key objectives of Vision 2030, such as sustainability and the balance between urban development and environmental preservation. As NEOM plays a crucial role in realizing the Vision 2030, it was necessary to present humanity with a new global destination that encompasses all the elements for a futuristic cognitive society that advance people and places, while preserving the environment.”
Findings, captured over 960 hours of underwater research and mapping over 1,500km2 of the seabed in high resolution 3D, have established a baseline measure of biodiversity and habitat vitality that will allow NEOM to pursue its goal of both conserving and improving the health of surrounding ecosystems.
The 30-person crew of world-renowned scientists, oceanographers and researchers included four NEOM experts, five from the Ministry of Environment, Water, and Agriculture (MEWA), five King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals(KFUPM) experts, 11 King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) researchers and five National Geographic explorers.
Key findings include:
- Discovery of an ocean pinnacle 635 m high (as tall as any of the world’s biggest skyscrapers except the Burj Khalifa)
- Two sightings of a large squid, caught on camera and not previously observed in the region
- Discovery of the world’s most northern deep sea brine pool (dense bodies of water that have a salinity that is three to eight times greater than the surrounding ocean)
- Recording coral reefs that are resilient to climate change
- Identification of 341 fish species in the waters of NEOM, 68 that are native to the region and 18 that are globally threatened
- Eight new species were recorded and over 600 km2 of biodiversity hotspots for fishes and corals discovered
- Confirmed presence of 12 species of megafauna in NEOM waters including whale sharks, dugong, turtles and dolphins
- Detailed surveys of three unexplored islands
- Previously unrecorded tectonic plate shifts
- Discovery of three ancient maritime and shipwreck sites