Flying Through A Sunless Snowstorm

For the past 5 or 6 years, I've come to realize, my life has included a Nautilus season. Every year, weather and funding permitting, the Nautilus Ocean Exploration Trust streams live exploration of the ocean floor. I think it should become an annual tradition for more people.

Their highlight videos, with dramatic music and cuts to important scenes, are great, but I don't tune in for them. I tune in for the slow flights over the ocean floor, up seamounts, across silty plains, through canyons of jumbled rock.

It's so different from normal content. There are no commercials (at least I think so. If there are, my adblockers take care of them.) No breaks. No Foley artists to add "the right" sounds. No scripted conflicts.

It's just a camera flying through a midnight snowstorm. Tiny flecks of marine snow, falling on a desolate and entirely alien landscape. And then, through the fog, a rock emerges. A fish darts. An octopus appears. It's a dream-world, flying effortlessly over a strange planet, exploring, at a sedate pace, a world of eerie beauty. It's almost hypnotic.

It makes spectacular moments, like a whalefall or a coral cluster, all the more exciting. You feel like you're there, next to the excited scientists, watching the event over their shoulders.
The flight over the octopus garden in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary probably ranks in my all-time favourite internet events.

Like many people with an active imagination, I have mild thalassophobia. Pictures of deep sea fishes in old National Geographic magazines used to scare the life out of me. I used to imagine horrible glass-toothed monsters with bulging eyes rising and biting me in half. But the Nautilus stream is different. I think it's because the ROV is part of the sea, not above it. It glides with such tranquility and calm that even the unexpected appearance of tentacles or teeth is a cause for wonder, not alarm.

The scientists (and pilots, technicians, etc.) help. They're excited, and their excitement is infectious. They try to provide relevant information, speculate (within limits), and use technical terms (where appropriate). The expectation is that the audience will follow along. It's not performative. The content isn't dumbed down, repackaged, monetized, summarized, or polished. It simply is. It's a window into another world, not a screen.

I leave the stream on more or less 24/7 during the season. (Direct link). Updates/announcements here. This year, it seems more appealing than ever.


  1. Of all the idiosyncratic things that pop up on the internet, this might be one of my favorite things to find.

  2. I have never heard about this before. It is absolutely bizarre, I love it. Thank you.

  3. I love everything about this, thank you for sharing it. My daughter is going to love watching these with me!

  4. You have sent me on a binge of these videos. Thank you

  5. honestly makes me just wanna play a 100% underwater campaign with merfolk and shit, the itch comes and goes but FUCK it's come strong now lol