After the meeting, I sat down to talk with scientists Ross and Brooke about the animals they're researching. I was surprised to learn that the red, pink, gold and black corals used in jewelry are among the oldest animals on Earth. Specimens of black corals have been dated to 4,000 years ago, making them the oldest animals known. Brooke calls harvesting these creatures for jewelry, a common practice in the deep waters off the coasts of Asia and Hawaii, a "travesty." Deep sea corals, which are found all over the world, are also threatened by the fishing industry—trawling for orange roughy is a major concern—and could be impacted by ocean acidification, which has already depleted the world's shallow-water corals. And then, of course, there's the oil. So far there haven't been any obvious signs of oil or dispersant during the dives, and both Ross and Brooke told me they doubted they'd see any impacts directly during this cruise. "I think we got lucky," Brooke said. She added, however, that the effects of the oil or dispersant could be more subtle, impacting the corals' reproduction, for example.