Scientists making the first submarine expedition in Lake Superior have had their first look at the bottom at its deepest -- more than 1,300 feet -- and found it teeming with life, though only of three species. Using searchlights -- the first light to penetrate the inky depths of the world's largest freshwater lake -- they saw rocks covered with tiny red hydra, which is a jellyfish-like creature, and two species of fish, turbot and sculpin.
"It was spectacular. No one has ever done this before," said David Long, a Michigan State University geologist who made the dive as part of a month-long expedition that is scheduled to end late this month. Long is one of several dozen scientists taking turns in the submarine, a four-person, 22-foot-long research vessel, the Johnson Sea-Link II.
The $500,000 expedition, organized by Michigan State and sponsored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, is intended to gather information about the geology, chemistry and biology of the lake, most of which is still drinking-water pure.
Depth soundings had indicated that the deepest point in the lake lay 1,333 feet below the surface. But when the sub went down to the presumed spot, it hit bottom at 1,319 feet.
"If there's a deeper spot, they couldn't find it," said spokesman Charles R. Downs.