Made up of benthic ecologists, technicians and in conjunction with the onboard bathymetry team, the OFOBS device has been deployed during many cruise nights to investigate the diverse seafloors of the southern Weddell Sea.
The OFOBS is a towed device, connected to Polarstern by a special glass fibre and power cable, capable of allowing high data and power connectivity to depth (Fig. 1). The power and data communication is necessary as the OFOBS system is an advanced research platform, supporting high resolution still image camera, video camera, forward and side facing sonar systems, three accurate positioning systems, and a host of other support instruments. By being able to interact with the OFOBS in real time from the ship, the very best data can be collected during deployments. The OFOBS is an updated version of the Ocean Floor Observation System (OFOS), used in Antarctica and the Arctic for a number of years, and is also occasionally deployed from other research vessels, such as the Sonne from Germany and the new Kronprins Hakkon icebreaker from Norway. The device has been used to film the deepest ever observed benthic octopuses in the Pacific and recently, the crawling deep sea sponges of the Arctic.