Ukrainian teen discovers unusual hagfish-slurping seal via NEPTUNE video stream

- Kim Westad

Kirill Dudko thought he was looking at some kind of sea monster when he first watched the NEPTUNE Canada live video stream that allowed him to view the ocean floor in Barkley Canyon from his home in Donetsk, Ukraine.

The 14-year-old boy watched as a hagfish slithering on the ocean floor, almost 900 metres beneath the surface, was suddenly slurped up by a huge unknown creature with a large nose and whiskers.

Dudko regularly "surfs the seafloor" via the underwater ocean observatory network. Part of UVic's Ocean Networks Canada Observatory, NEPTUNE Canada feeds images from the cameras that sit on the ocean floor to the internet so anyone, anywhere can see what is happening beneath the ocean's surface.

The avid science student posted the 10-second clip to his YouTube channel, and also asked NEPTUNE Canada what the creature could be. Scientists identified it as a female northern elephant seal. The unusual seals spend 90 per cent of their time underwater and can hold their breath for over 100 minutes.

It's the first sighting of an elephant seal in NEPTUNE Canada seafloor footage, and scientists said Dudko's curiosity and observations are a great example of the "citizen science" that is an important part of the program.

Dudko said he'll continue surfing NEPTUNE Canada and hopes to do research in marine biology. In the meantime, he's garnered a fair bit of publicity for his keen eye, including the front page of the Times Colonist newspaper, and a national television story.

NEPTUNE Canada (including more info on Dudko)

Times Colonist (link is live at time of this posting)

CBC News (online article)

CBC TV (video)

In this story

Keywords: Ukraine, Ocean Networks Canada

People: Kirill Dudko

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