I'm Buck. I’m the senior sub pilot aboard the MV Alucia (@aluciaproductions), a 56-meter research vessel. Last night, I appeared on Blue Planet II as we took a sub 1000 meters down in Antarctica. I've helped capture footage for Blue Planet II, Leonardo Dicaprio's Before the Flood and more. Since less than 5% of the ocean has been explored, many of the places we go have never been seen by human eyes. Ask me anything. https://imgur.com/a/1XQzm

Comments: 126 • Responses: 47  • Date: 

EauDePotato21 karma

What's the weirdest creature you've seen going down?

buck_taylor_44 karma

It's gotta be the barrel-eye. The fish with the jelly head that can see through the top of its own skull. When you see it it doesn't look that impressive, and it looks quite small. but when you actually get close and zoom in on onit and realize what it is it just blows your mind. I think we've probably got the best footage that anyone's ever had, so that's amazing.

stick_in_the_mud9 karma

Thank you for such amazing footage. The barrel-eye is my new favorite fish. Are they very rare?

buck_taylor_15 karma

We actually don't know. We don't get to see many of them, but again, humans don't spend much time in the areas that they live in. So we really have no idea.

AmishRhino16 karma

Former Boomer submariner here.

How long can you stay down in that rig?

Do you have an equivalent of “emergency blow” if things go badly?

Stay safe.

buck_taylor_23 karma

Former SRV pilot here!

Normal dive is 12 hours. And we have four days emergency life support. We've got redundance systems for everything ("backup system" for others reading).

But in remote areas we always have the two subs, so the other one can act as a rescue sub.

bluegreyscale3 karma

The submarine in the picture doesn't look so big. How much can you move around in there and since you spend 12 hours inside how do you deal with the toilet situation?

buck_taylor_16 karma

Yes, you're right it is very compact. You can just about stand up and stretch your legs. (We're all very good frequent fliers with the window seat.) Toilet, we can't deal with solids. But for liquids we have these little units called Travel Johns, which are unisex, and turn urine into pleasant-ish smelling gel in a bag. But it is not very discreet. As the pilots we are so used to it it doesn't change what we do, but when we've got guests coming in we recommend that they don't--coffee and tea before they get in is a big one.

praetor-13 karma

Why do they call the person in command of a submarine a pilot?

As opposed to a captain or something else.

buck_taylor_33 karma

Because we "fly" the submarine in three dimensions. So although not as fast as an aeroplane, you do fly the submarine.

49orth11 karma

Have you seen evidence of ecosystem harm from climate change and pollution?

buck_taylor_41 karma

I think the saddest scene we saw was in the Gulf of Mexico. We were about 900m down, there were beautiful deep sea corals covered in crude oil from one of the big oil spills. In the same area, there were also these crabs that they're now calling "zombie crabs." Because their genes have been messed up so badly they're actually being born with all these defects, neurological defects. And it's all come from some kind of spill at some point. So that was sad to see that.

wimbs279 karma

What species of fish have you not yet seen in-person before, but of so very much wish to?

buck_taylor_18 karma

I'd like to see a mature oarfish. I've seen juveniles, which are about 20 centimeters long, but they can grow up to about 11 meters long.

When you see them dead on the beach they don't look that impressive but in the water they're absolutely stunning.

thetensedruid9 karma

What are the emotions you're experiencing on the decent to your destinations, and during your observations?

buck_taylor_21 karma

That's a strange one because generally everything happens initially at a slow pace. Because it takes us an hour to get from the surface to 1000m, so it goes from one extreme to the other: almost complete boredom to complete excitement. And you'll see a new creature or a new situation and it's not until you stop and it's all finished that you can actually take in what you've actually witnessed, that all these emotions start flooding in. It's really strange. Very often we'll sit and see this big scene, for example the bubbling mud volcanoes seen on Blue Planet last night, and you appreciate it, but it's not until you come back and look at all the footage and you go, "that's absolutely stunning." Submersibles are very much 100% excitement or 100% boredom.

LuckyVC178 karma

What's your favorite thing about the ocean?

buck_taylor_20 karma

I love the feeling that every time we go in and shut the hatch and dive into the black we have no idea what we're gonna see. It's just that sense of the unknown. Even if we're in the same sort of area for a month it's very rare that we'll actually dive on the exact same spot more than two or three times. So we're literally seeing new stuff that nobody's ever seen before every dive.

I often get asked before we do a dive, what are we ging to see? And I literally have to say, "I have no idea." Because whatever you're going to see, you'll be the first person to see it.

Also I love shutting the hatch because no one email me.

LuckyVC173 karma

Do you ever get scared that something may happen to you down there? Or do you always feel like everything will be fine?

buck_taylor_8 karma

To be honest, no. And the people we choose to be pilots are generally very calm and can deal with high-stress situations easily. It's not the place for a nervous person! But because we maintain the equipment ourselves and we do a lot of planning prior to a dive, apart from what we're going to see there's generally no surprises. So we're in control. :)

pilgrim14678 karma

How do you deal with currents that are probably not known before?

buck_taylor_15 karma

So, on the Alucia (ship) we have a system called an ADCP, and we can measure current through the water column. So we know what the speed of the water's doing at any depth. So before we dive we'll map the area so we know the topography and we also know what the current's doing. And based on that we decide if we can or can't dive. When we get to about 2.5 knots it gets a little bit "exciting." Because we can only go three knots.

predictingzepast7 karma

I keep hearing how little of the ocean is actually been explored due to reaching depths, how close are we to being able to explore deeper, and what is stopping us now from doing so?

buck_taylor_20 karma

We can only go to 1000m at the moment. With new technologies, with AUVs (autonomous underwater vehicles) we're starting to be able to map so much more of the ocean. But it's still just a pinprick. It's going to take decades and decades. And that's to map it, let alone going down and seeing everything. If you imagine, when we do a dive with a manned sub or a robot or an ROV (remotely operated vehicle) all we're seeing is--we may move two or three hundred meters during that dive. And 100 meters away there could be the most stunning topography or creature and we have no idea it's there. So the challenge of mapping and logging every creature in the ocean with the technology we've got at the moment is vast. It's getting better but it's a huge, huge job.

Cowajc006 karma

Do you like grapes?

buck_taylor_31 karma

I do love grapes. Mostly in wine form.

dumbfunk6 karma

Is farting an issue on the sub? How do you take a dump?

buck_taylor_9 karma

See answer above, but if we've done a 12 hour dive, smells over a 12 hour period can sneak up on you very gradually. But you don't really notice it--the person who gets the full force is the person who opens the hatch at the top at the end of the dive.

EauDePotato5 karma

Are there any creatures in the deep that could cause huge damage to the sub?

(I'm picturing huge squids just zipping around the sub in the darkness)

buck_taylor_11 karma

When we were filming the Humboldt squid for last night's episode we had to be very careful with fiber optics and electrical cables. Usually they're quite exposed but we had to tuck them away because the squid could damage them.

iamawordofscience5 karma

What's your favorite book?

buck_taylor_7 karma

It's actually books. I've got a first edition copy of "The Ocean World" of Jacques Cousteau. It's a 20-volume set and it's one of those group of books you can just pick up and read over and over again. It's just amazing. And amazing the type of exploration they were doing in the mid '70s. Even now, they've still dived in some spots that we haven't managed to get to. We're trying to close that gap now, and as technology gets better and better we're getting there, but what they did in the '70s was incredible, just through sheer determination.

nolamaddog12055 karma

Favorite submarine movie?

buck_taylor_11 karma

The Abyss (except for the ending!)

majikman195 karma

What is the strangest thing you've seen on your trips?

buck_taylor_9 karma

It's gotta be the brine pools in the Gulf of Mexico, which was on Blue Planet II last night. We did spend three days there. Just sitting there watching interactions of this little marine ecosystem with the actual brine pool was stunning, and something that people had never witnessed before. And how some animals could touch it and they'd be dead instantly, and others were using it to their advantage and could dip in and pull out dead fish to eat. It was very strange. But Alucia Productions actually has some more videos on this coming out tomorrow: facebook.com/aluciaproductions

tentycamper4 karma

How does one become a professional submarine pilot, in terms of acquiring the necessary skills and education for it; would you mind sharing your story?

buck_taylor_20 karma

Really it's a mixed group of people, but generally you need an engineering background of mechanical/electrical or electronics. And that's mainly to keep the submersibles working.

So I did mechanical engineering after leaving school, then I joined the navy as a clearance diver and trained as a submarine rescue pilot. After serving 14 years I got offered a job by a company that manufactured submarine rescue submersibles. And I ended up going all over the world teaching different nations how to pilot rescue subs. And then, from there, it was great but I wasn't getting to see anything, so I swapped over into the science and media side of submersibles, which was a lot more exciting. And I actually got to see things under the water again.

I've been with the Alucia for coming up to ten years. I'm head of submersible department, which means I've got two submarines and ten pilots that I manage and I'm also senior pilot.

culasthewiz4 karma

I watched this last night. Incredible footage! How long was the crew filming for this episode?

buck_taylor_10 karma

It was split over a three year period. There's lots of behind the scenes stuff at Alucia Productions, who did a lot of shoots over the entire series.

JiminyFeckit4 karma

Have you ever encountered the Chimaera aka the ghostfish or ratfish? What's the longest amount of time you've spent underwater and how does it feel to be on land after being in the sea for so long?

buck_taylor_8 karma

Yeah we encounter them a lot, especially at depths below 750m. Beautiful creature.

Longest time we've spent in the submersible is 12 hours. But we get launched and recovered back to the ship every day. So, normally the longest we'll do at sea is a month, and we dive every day of that month. And definitely, coming back to shore, very often you'll get "landsick." Which is almost the opposite of being seasick. So you can still feel the sensation of the ship moving when you come back to land for a couple of days.

andre19923 karma

I saw the scenes with the methane gas popping at the bottom of the ocean, how was the experience for you to see that up close?

buck_taylor_10 karma

Very surreal experience. We were expecting these tiny little bubbles. When we got there it even surprised the scientist we had on board (mandy Joye). It was like being in a "War of the Worlds" movie. There's more videos on it coming out tomorrow from Alucia Productions if you check their handles.

rumpleteaser913 karma

How many people are usually in there with you, and are they trained in any way to help drive?

buck_taylor_12 karma

In one sub we have one passenger, in the other one we have two passengers. And their training is very, very brief. So before you get in the submersible you watch a safety video and learn how to conduct an emergency ascent if something happens to the pilot and he's incapable of bringing it back up. Basically, closing two valves, opening two others ones, and putting your head between your legs and screaming.

Conductanceman3 karma

How can someone charter the submersible and who manufactured it?

buck_taylor_9 karma

I guess you can charter it. Most of our charters are science agencies and organizations. And companies like the BBC, which go through Alucia Productions.

Triton Submarines in Vero Beach, Florida, manufactured the subs. They're the biggest manufacturer of manned submersibles right now.

Djaja2 karma

Hey thanks for doing this! You mention episodes airing as recently as last night. Are these different from the episodes on Netflix or available on blue ray? Also, I am interested in freshwater ecosystems and the amazing variety of tropical fish that exist in rivers and ponds. Any plans to work in this area? If not, are there any production companies like Alucia that film freshwater systems? Lastly, what is your favorite freshwater fish?

buck_taylor_5 karma

It's different to the Planet Earth Series. It's Blue Planet II, so it's the sequel to Blue Planet which came out in the early 2000s. It's not on Netflix yet. It aired in Europe and China late last year and just started airing on BBC America on Saturday nights.

As for your question about freshwater ecosystems, we've done some work filming freshwater river systems recently but I can't talk about it yet. One of the challenges with freshwater are the high currents. My favorite freshwater fish is the kaluga, a type of sturgeon fish found in the Amur River Basin. It's the largest freshwater fish in the world. It looks like a shark and can be up to 5.6 meters and weight 1000 kilos.

ThrowawayINeedsOne2 karma

What an awesome AMA to stumble onto on a random Sunday night. Thank you for doing this.

I'm honestly still trying to decide what to ask; pretty sure I made it through all of the comments and replies so there shouldn't be any repeats.

I saw that you mentioned how the 70s were just brilliant for progress in submersibles. My introduction to subs was right during the mid 80s thanks to Bob Ballard, WHOI and the USN. (The first full length National Geographic piece that had footage from '85 when Ballard and Co. found TITANIC.) It just blows my mind the things that have changed since then. I mean, you mentioned at times two submersibles go down at a time so that one could be utilized as a rescue unit. That's just wild! I guess that's what I'll go with.

What would transpire during a sub to sub rescue, and how often do you practice that?

buck_taylor_3 karma

We practice full exercises at least once a year as a team. This includes searching for a missing submersible on the seabed, mid-water and surface. Using hydraulic cutting tools to release a trapped submersible and taking an emergency recovery rope down to the distressed submersible for recovery by the ship. All of these are whole exercises to keep everyone busy.

Noveira1 karma

I am a die-hard ocean enthusiast and one day I'd like to see some of these deep sea creatures in person, alive. Is there any possibility in today's world, or is the equipment just too expensive and restricted?

janereacher1 karma

can you take me for a trip? ..seriously

buck_taylor_3 karma

try here to win the chance! https://www.airbnb.com/night-at/blueplanet

worm304781 karma

So I was watching last night and was wondering. How are the cameras placed that film the sub filming?

buck_taylor_2 karma

we dive with 2 subs normally one filming the subject (macro) and one filming the whole scene (wides)

ddproxy1 karma

Is there any specialized technology you have worked with for these dives that is either unique or one-off for a dive/shot/experiment?

buck_taylor_1 karma

We were the first to manufacture 1,000m housings for the Red Weapon cameras. The same for the 4k black magic camera.

frankiefarmer1 karma

Huge fan!

Could you hear the icebergs crashing above or near you? What did they sound like? Did you know the Rock was falling toward you? What was the atmosphere in the sub? Fear? Panic? Business as usual?

What has been your biggest surprise in filming? How did you feel during? After?

buck_taylor_2 karma

Iceberg Alley was very vocal, all the time we could hear the ice creaking and bashing around all the way down to 1,000m. At times we could hear it and there was no ice visible on the surface. Sound travels very well underwater. No we didn't know the rock was coming until it arrived! But at the time business as usual :)

RoosterSamurai1 karma

Does it get cold in there?

buck_taylor_3 karma

The submersible's hulls are acrylic which has amazing insulation properties. The electronics inside the sphere maintain it at a comfortable temperature. The biggest issue we have is overheating on the surface and at shallow depths in warm areas. We do have air conditioning for this but sometimes in the sunshine it struggles.

ScumbagsRme1 karma

Well since you posted this before I'll try here. "Oh god I have so many questions but here are 3 big ones.

First off how did you get into working with non-military submarines?

What kind of sub did you guys use? (Missed that you named it so how about any details on it?)

What was your favorite thing you saw down there?

Thank you so much for your work on blue planet! I absolutely love everything about it."

buck_taylor_1 karma

I am ex-military however we do take on non military team members. The main thing is to have a mechanical, electrical or electronic background to keep the subs running. As a team we do all of our own maintenance, refits and modifications. It guarantees a good job knowing you'll be the one in it!

superplough1 karma

Why's it "pilot" rather than "captain"? Are subs not ships?

buck_taylor_1 karma

Because we operate in 3 dimensions it's considered more like flying

AnestisAm1 karma

Amazing footage, congratulations on that.

The outside would be up to 100 bar. But I assume the air tanks are within the pressurized cabin.

1) Do you use oxygen-enriched air? 2) What’s the pressure in the cabin? 3) How do you deal with nitrogen in your blood while ascending?


buck_taylor_1 karma

yes at 1,000m 100 bar outside we maintain the inside at atmospheric pressure so no need for decompression or other diving related issues. To maintain the atmosphere at surface levels we inject oxygen into the sphere at 0.5 lpm per person for the duration of a dive and the carbon dioxide produced is scrubbed with soda-lime much in the same way a rebreather works.

SethRogen-Not1 karma

Do you ever just turn off all your lights and sit in total darkness?

buck_taylor_2 karma

Oh yes. Especially mid-water. We get to see the most amazing firework like shows from critters producing bioluminescence. It's amazing!

Big-toe-1 karma

We are watching the episode you are referring to as i type this. I wanted to know why the plants at the bottom of the ocean have color on them? What would be the evolutionary advantage of having this pigment where very little to no natural light is present?

buck_taylor_1 karma

Very good question and one we still don't full understand today. Many of the corals, plants and creatures of the depth have amazing colors which is great for us, however...... We have a scientists that works with us who is studying marine vision. He has discovered that may creatures can see in different color frequencies including infrared. Still lots and lots to learn.

Sweet_dee3631 karma

How long were you down there? Any significant physical sensations from that kind of depth?

buck_taylor_2 karma

The maximum dive times are 12 hours. Because we remain at atmospheric it is more like coping with a long haul flight rather than a scuba dive. The soda lime that removes the carbon dioxide does dehydrate you so you do have to drink, just not too much!

indoDude951 karma

Neat job you have! I've always wondered, is there any part of the ocean that you want to explore that hasn't yet been seen? and how do animals react normally when the submarine approaches, any animals more brave? Thanks!

buck_taylor_2 karma

I'd love to spend time around the Arctic to compare it to the Antarctic (we may have the chance soon). It's funny normally the big predators avoid us and we attract the medium to small critters. Our guessing is that the large predators see us a threat and the smaller critters use us as protection, somewhere to hide in if need be.

CookeMonter1 karma

On one of the explore Alucia clips I noticed the radar person talk about the accuracy of GPS system, and I was wondering how does the sub navigate and communicate with the main ship including details of location of what you just explored?

buck_taylor_2 karma

Everything between the ship and the submersibles is done acoustically through the water. Each subs has a comms units that can transmit and receive on different frequencies. Normally this is good as long as there aren't too many salinity levels. A similar system is used to track the submersibles. Each sub is fitted with a beacon which transmits into the water. The ship has a receiver on the hull that from the angles of the received transmissions can determine the range and depth of each of the subs. It is very accurate and we can land within 1 meter of a point every time.

DrDustyE1 karma

When a whale carcass is spotted near the surface, like on the most recent episode, do you wait for it to sink all the way and then find it, or do you happen to come across whale carcasses on the bottom of the ocean and stop to record what goes on?

buck_taylor_2 karma

A combination of the 2. The surface one we attached an acoustic tracking beacon to it before it sank and then we can track it with the ship and subs

icollectmanycoins1 karma

What's the scariest creature you've seen or scariest situation you've been in?

buck_taylor_2 karma

The humboldt squid were very aggressive. We had to hide all the cables to prevent things being damaged. Not a risk to us more a case of "please don't do that we'll have to fix it!!!!" I a past life in a military rescue sub I got stuck in a ghost fishing net at 150 meters and had to be cut out. Fortunately there was another team on standby so we were only stuck for 14 hours. We have 96 hours of emergency life support onboard so plenty of time.

Iamjune1 karma

What caused the leak in the submarine that was quickly fixed?

buck_taylor_1 karma

Where the depth gauges attach to the pipe work we use PTFE tape. Because the water was so cold the tape became brittle and started to breakdown. The subs are supper safe and it was a case of locating the leak and isolating by shutting a valve, as simple as that!

Lofty19881 karma

When you dive that deep in a sub, do you end up having any decompression requirements, or are you able to truly maintain 1atm inside the sub? I have always wondered...! In awe and VERY jealous of your work. If you ever need a coffee boy on the ship, let me know! Ha.

buck_taylor_1 karma

Unless we have a big problem we remain at 1atm. We drink a lot of tea and coffee you'd be busy!

Bigduck731 karma

Were you afraid of getting eaten by a colossal squid?

buck_taylor_2 karma

No not really. They are a slow moving creature, powerful but slow moving. If one decided it really liked us we could pump out ballast and start to make our ascent without hurting either it or the sub.

agiro10861 karma

Is the submarine yellow?

buck_taylor_2 karma

one yellow and one green!

egyptty8881 karma

Did you see any wierd creatures? How are they different from ones we're used to?

buck_taylor_1 karma

We're so luck as we get to see critters for the first time. The differences are amazing in terms of vision and communication. Look at the Barrel-eye fish. There's so much more to be discovered every dive is exciting.