Explorer Nick Hutchings, pictured aboard the Innovator, a cable maintenance ship. He was given use of the ship and its Remotely Operated Vehicle to explore the deep water off Bermuda. *Photo supplied
Explorer Nick Hutchings, pictured aboard the Innovator, a cable maintenance ship. He was given use of the ship and its Remotely Operated Vehicle to explore the deep water off Bermuda. *Photo supplied
1
2

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 5: ‘The future is under water.’

From wind farms and wave energy to the holy grail of gold mines, explorer Nick Hutchings is convinced a wealth of opportunities lie beneath the waves.

It was rumours of ‘yellow metallic veins’ in the rocks in the deep ocean off Bermuda that first sparked his interest in underwater exploration.

And now, as founder of Ocean Projects Ltd, he says he is beginning to uncover some of the potential of the island’s waters.

The gold story — passed on by legendary US newscaster Walter Cronkite after a submarine mission to photograph sixgill sharks in the 1980s — has yet to check-out.

But gold, says Mr Hutchings, is far from the only treasure he is hunting.

In the next few months he will begin a new phase of his exploration of the northern slopes of the Bermuda seamount.

The method is freakishly simple — tossing an underwater camera tied to a fishing line off the side of his boat, photographing the ocean-bottom and reeling the camera back-in.

He accepts the painstaking project will leave him with a lot of murky photos of worthless rocks.

But he works in hope that one day the images will reveal something far more significant.

The dream would be towering black stalagmites— evidence of a volcanic phenomenon known as ‘black smokers’ which produce gold and copper ore in astonishingly high concentrations.

Do they exist in Bermuda? Mr Hutchings believes it is a long shot. But he insists it is worth looking.

A more plausible find, he says, would be an image of a glassy, cracked ocean bottom, like the pieces of a shattered vase.

That would suggest that a tier of valuable metal-rich rock known as the Ferromanganese Crust — already discovered in Bermuda — was present in extractable quantities.

 Rich in platinum and cobalt the crusts could be sold at a profit of more than $400-a-ton — even accounting for the expense of extracting, refining and shipping, according to Mr Hutchings’ calculations.

Those kind of discoveries are, he hopes, in the future. The most exciting find of his project, so far, are rock phosphates — the principal ingredient in most commercial fertilizer.

It’s not exactly gold. And the discovery, a few years ago, barely raised an eyebrow.

Since then, he says, the world price for phosphates has risen from $40-a-ton to $275-a-ton amid a world shortage.

More investment and exploration would be needed to discover if Bermuda has the raw materials for the beginnings of an industry. But the prospects, says Mr Hutchings, are exciting.

“If the prices continue to rise or even stabilize at that rate, it is starting to look like very viable.

“For me a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. This is something we know is out there. So right now that is the most exciting find.”