NOAA’s latest deep-sea diving expedition encountered holothuroids (sea cucumbers) that, despite their common name, are anything but vegetables. This particular deep-sea holothuroid is getting his groove on with a rhythmic dance that keeps it afloat in the water column.
GIF: Brian Kahn/NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, Gulf of Mexico 2018

Sometimes, reality bites. Our political system is in shambles, our infrastructure is collapsing, and now, you can’t even enjoy Kanye’s new album (were you ever really going to, though?). Game of Thrones isn’t coming back until 2019, and colonizing Mars remains a pipe dream.

We do have a bunch of ridiculously cool footage of the ocean floor, though.

Scientists with the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration’s Okeanos Explorer have spent the better part of the last month using a remote operated vehicle to explore various deep sea locales in the Gulf of Mexico, sending back fantastic imagery to the surface. The expedition is a followup to an exploratory survey late last year that revealed all sorts of wild seafloor habitats, including liquid asphalt seeps and salty underwater “lakes” called brine pools.

The 2018 mission, which began April 11 and ends on Thursday, has offered some incredible glimpses into the biology of the deep ocean, from sediment-munching sea cucumbers to shipwrecks crawling with octopuses. Scientists also caught a glimpse of a creature that looks straight out of Ridley Scott’s Alien and which a marine biologist described as “probably the most bizarre squid I’ve ever seen.”

In addition to the charismatic creatures, co-science lead Adam Skarke highlighted the strange environments Okeanos explored during the recent dives, including a brine pool and relic brine waterfall in the Gulf of Mexico.

“Not only do brine pools and waterfalls look really cool, like bodies of water on the seafloor, they also support chemosynthetic ecosystems, in which the entire food chain is based on synthesis of chemicals emitted from the seafloor rather than sunlight,” Skarke told Earther in an email.

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The last dive, on Wednesday, plunged viewers into unexplored sinkholes just off the Florida Keys. Skarke said exploration of these sinkholes “has already sparked a good deal of discussion among a number of marine geologists” about how they could have formed.

You can watch all four hours of the footage from that recent dive here (mostly barren, garbage-free views of the seabed, it’s actually quite soothing). If that’s a bit too low-key for your workday, though, we’ve collected some of our favorite critters from the 2018 expedition below.

Please enjoy this squid, which is doing its darndest to look like an alien sentinel.
GIF: Brian Kahn/NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, Gulf of Mexico 2018

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This very good octopus, Muusoctopus johnsonianus, was observed burrowing into sediment.
Photo: NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, Gulf of Mexico 2018
The camera got so close to this sediment-noshing sea cucumber you can see coils of sand packed into its intestines!
Photo: NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, Gulf of Mexico 2018
This sea cucumber’s tube feet, or podia, allow it to ingest little gulps of seafloor sediment, which it then extracts tasty organic matter and nutrients from.
GIF: Brian Kahn/NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, Gulf of Mexico 2018

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A gosefish (a type of anglerfish) spotted at 2,100 feet.
Photo: NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, Gulf of Mexico 2018
A ‘squat lobster’ chilling amidst branches of Gorogonian octocoral.
Photo: NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, Gulf of Mexico 2018
This purple octocoral has all the flair of an undersea carnival.
Photo: NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, Gulf of Mexico 2018

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Everybody’s gotta eat, but when you’re the seastar Pythonaster, lunch may consist of a glass sponge. Yum?
Photo: NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, Gulf of Mexico 2018

This article has been updated with comments from Adam Skarke.