'Sobering Sight' Spotted on Brazilian Sea Floor

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A team of scientists exploring the seafloor off the Brazilian coast, an area never before visited by humans, made a disheartening discovery trash.

The expedition team is studying the Abrolhos reefs, the largest and southernmost of the reefs in the South Atlantic. The team's goal is to travel deeper than the known parts of the Abrolhos, to an area where the light begins to dim. [Infographic: Tallest Mountain to Deepest Ocean Trench .]

On the team's very first dive, they found a bottle buried in the seafloor mud at about 1,850 feet (600 meters) deep and over 45 nautical miles (83 kilometers) from land and 60 miles (97 kilometers) from the nearest town.

On the next dive, the scientists found tangled old longline fishing gear wrapped around the reef structure.

"It seems, even in this remote location, which has never before been visited by humans, trash from human activities elsewhere has made its mark on the habitat," wrote expedition team member Alistair Dove, a senior scientist with the Georgia Aquarium, on his blog.

"It is a prominent and disturbing reminder of our impact on even the unseen parts of the planet. I can only hope that this bottle becomes a home for some small thing, or that it becomes crusted over with coralline algae such that one day it is simply a bottle-shaped rhodolith," Dove wrote. A rhodolith is a kind of red algae that looks like coral.

The Abrolhos expedition began on Jan. 20 and runs until Jan. 28.

Reach OurAmazingPlanet staff writer Brett Israel at bisrael@techmedianetwork.com. Follow him on Twitter @btisrael.

Brett Israel was a staff writer for Live Science with a focus on environmental issues. He holds a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and molecular biology from The University of Georgia, a master’s degree in journalism from New York University, and has studied doctorate-level biochemistry at Emory University.