Alert: Our website does not support Internet Explorer 9. Please update your browser or choose a different one to continue.

Ulrich Krieger

Aphotic II — Abyssal

September 29, 2023

From Ulrich Krieger…

Since a long time, I have been fascinated by the ‘alienness’ of oceanic depths. Together with its opposite, the large deserts, it is the closest to an alien environment and possible alien life we will find here on planet earth.

The aphotic zones (from Greek: lightless) relate to the oceanic depths roughly between 1.000 – 11.000 meters. While the epipelagic (sunlit, 0-200m) and mesopelagic (twilight, 200-1000m) zones have sunlight, and therefore photosynthesis, no light reaches down into the endless darkness of the three deep-sea aphotic, ‘midnight’ water layers: Bathyal (1.000-4.000 m), Abyssal (4.000 – 6.000 m) and Hadal (6.000 – 11.000 m). It is the realm of huge, incredible flat abyssal plains and large deep-sea trenches, like the Mariana Trench.

The fauna of the deep sea is for the most part still unexplored. Down here many fish are luminescent, producing their own light either to attract prey or defend from predators. And the deeper we go pressure gets stronger, water gets colder and less animal life can be found.

Being able to move in three dimensions is one of the new experiences of scuba diving as well as the feel of changing pressure and its effect on our nervous system. As a recreational scuba diver, I only have been diving as deep as 53 m in a canyon in the Red Sea—as part of my special deep dive training. This is already pretty deep considering that the regular depth for most recreational divers is 18 m. But already in shallow depths one can feel changes in perception and the slowing down of brain function—subjectively everything feels slower. My 60-minute dives feel like 20-30 minutes to me.

But underwater also has its own, different acoustic that irritates our senses and creates a new, unique experience. The speed of sound in salt water is 4 times faster than in air, resulting in a loss of directional hearing—sounds seem to come from everywhere, meaning we cannot orientate by sound anymore. Further there is the filter effect of water, making the underwater soundscape filtered, darker and quieter.

With this edition, we are now ascending and reach the Abssyal (from greek: ábyssos – bottomless) layer of oceanic waters. The pressure has eased off, we are now 4.000-6.000 m deep.

It is the middle of the aphotic zones, also called the lower midnight zone, and it is the realm of the wide, vast Abyssal plains of the deep ocean floor. They are among the earth’s flattest and smoothest regions and the least explored. Abyssal Plains cover approximately 40% of the ocean floor. Still, no light reaches this far down. The fauna of this part of the deep-sea is for the most part still unexplored, but marine snow, a continuous shower of organic matter falling from the upper layers, serves as an important food source. 


released September 29, 2023

Ulrich Krieger – tenor saxophone, electronics
Ben Richter – accordion
Derek Stein – cello