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UNB alum seizes opportunity to travel to Antarctica to film colossal squid

Author: UNB Newsroom

Posted on Mar 22, 2023

Category: UNB Fredericton , UNB Saint John

Brent Lackey

The colossal squid lives in the deep Southern Ocean and scientists believe it is the world’s largest squid species, measuring 10 to 12 metres and weighing up to 750 kilograms or more. However, much of the biology and ecology of the species is undiscovered and attempts to capture an image of this mysterious sea creature have so far been unsuccessful. In fact, no one has ever seen it alive.

Scientists base their current knowledge about the colossal squid on a few specimens captured in deep-sea fisheries and remains found in the stomachs of sperm whales, which are thought to be their most significant predators. They surmise that, like the giant squid, colossal squids use bioluminescence to attract prey and have the largest eye among the animal kingdoms. Capturing one on film would certainly be a significant accomplishment.

Last November, University of New Brunswick (UNB) mechanical engineering alum, Brent Lackey, headed to Antarctica on a cruise ship with a mission to do just that.

Lackey graduated from UNB’s mechanical engineering program in 2013 with a focus on mechatronics. He now works for the Newfoundland-based company SubC Imaging as the engineering manager overseeing research and development.

“After graduating from UNB, I saw a job come up in Newfoundland and was able to join SubC in its early stages," said Lackey. “We design a variety of cameras, imaging systems, lights, lasers and digital video recorders and streamers."

SubC, ocean non-profit KOLOSSAL and Memorial University’s (MUN) Marine Institute, collaborated on a research voyage of a lifetime, setting out to deploy deep-sea cameras into the Southern Ocean. SubC supplied the camera equipment with Lackey working as technical support alongside marine biologists and researchers from KOLLOSAL and MUN.

“I was so grateful to get the opportunity to join KOLOSSAL and MUN for this mission,” said Lackey. “I never would have imagined my mechanical engineering degree would lead me to be part of such an exciting voyage and to find one of the most sought out sea creatures in the world.”

On the expedition, the team used an underwater camera designed by SubC called the Rayfin Mk2 Benthic 6000m. This camera has been used in various marine research applications worldwide, most notably being the first camera to capture 4K underwater images of the Titanic.

“My time spent in Antarctica with the crew was one of the best experiences in my career thus far,” said Lackey. “It was incredible to see one of the most untouched and isolated continents in the world and use our own cameras as the main piece of equipment.”

During the expedition, the team explored the shores of Antarctica, where they saw different species of birds, penguins and seals. However, despite a month of attempts to film the colossal squid, the mystery remains and Lackey looks forward to his next trip to the Southern Ocean.

“Although we didn’t see the squid this time, I am excited and hopeful that we will be successful next time,” said Lackey.