A Dive into the Deep for Morgan Griffith ’17 | Saint Joseph Notre Dame High School


A Dive into the Deep for Morgan Griffith ’17

Morgan Griffith ’17 works at Deep Ocean Exploration and Research (DOER), a marine technology company in Alameda run by his parents. The company designs and builds some of the world’s most technologically-advanced subsea manned and robotic systems.

Over the summer, Morgan and his brother Taylor Griffith ’15 were assigned to work on DOER’s latest project, a special camera sent to them by Canon. Fewer than 30 of the specialized cameras existed worldwide. DOER would be the first to test the camera in the deep sea, to film deep-water bioluminescent coral in Hawaii. The corals had been observed by DOER’s establisher and renowned American marine biologist Dr. Sylvia Earle in 1979, but no camera had ever been able to record the phenomenon. Morgan and Taylor got to work, spending hours building cables that hook the camera into the submersible, and reading about the ins and outs of the camera. As everything was getting packed up to leave for Honolulu, the brothers were invited to join the team on the excursion.

The objectives of the trip were to study the changes in the corals over time between 1979 and 2016; to bring back the first ever high-definition color images of the bioluminescent corals; and to test the camera’s usefulness to the scientific community. Morgan’s job was to operate the camera from the submarine. Alongside respected coral biologist and oceanographer Dr. Franklin Parish, and submarine pilot Max Cremer, they dove 450 meters underwater to the Makapu’u coral beds off the coast of Oahu. In the deep, black expanse, they turned on their headlights and illuminated the coral garden in front of them.

With the specialized camera, the team captured highly detailed images that showed not only the full structure of the coral, but also the beautiful iridescent blue of the bioluminescence in full color. Only a handful of people have ever observed these corals in their natural habitat, and the team brought back the very first images to show the world the importance and beauty of deep-sea coral beds.

The incredible return to the deep in Hawaii was an inspiring experience for the next generation of explorers, who got to work with organizations like DOER, the Hawaii Undersea Research Lab, and National Geographic. Morgan says, “It’s important to jump at opportunities when you have the chance and to soak up as much knowledge as you possibly can - not only from scientists like Dr. Earle and Dr. Parish, but also from pilots like Max, and Terry and all of the mechanics, engineers, electricians and crew on the ship. Everyone had so much knowledge and experience to share. The world needs more scientists; if you learn as much as you can and pay attention to the environment where you live, you can achieve your goals and become an incredible scientist.” 

Pictured above left to right: Taylor Griffith ’15, Morgan Griffith ’17, Max Cremer, Terry Kerby, Dr. Frank Parish

Read the National Geographic Article here.