Go to Plymouth Hoe and look out to sea. You probably won’t see anything out of the ordinary. Dive under the waves though, and you’ll find PLUTO, the Plymouth Underwater Teaching Observatory – an underwater camera that reveals the beauty and diversity of Plymouth Sound’s marine life.
Installed by Dr Nicholas Higgs from the University of Plymouth's Marine Institute, PLUTO streams live HD video – like Springwatch for fish. Basking sharks, pollack, lens-sucking snails – for the first time ever you can peer into a world that was previously inaccessible without getting wet.
Taking two years from start to finish, Nick ran into various obstacles, including having to custom-build a waterproof housing for the camera.
“It was a complex logistical operation,” he explains. The ultimate goal “is to engage people more with ocean wildlife,” he says. “For marine conservation and protecting this local area, it’s vital that people understand what’s down there. It reinforces what’s on your doorstep.”
Other cameras will soon be joining PLUTO. “We’ll put them in different environments – the rocky reef areas at Fort Bovisand, or the sea grass beds around Drake Island,” enthuses Nick. “Once you get all these different habitats up, people can build up an idea of the diversity of life that is out there.”
See some of the highlights.