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Most people have never even seen this wonder. And technically, it really isn't in Monterey County, since it's offshore. But the Monterey Submarine Canyon still managed to rise to the level of "seven wonders."

And no wonder. This underwater marvel rivals the Grand Canyon in size, stretching nearly 300 miles long, more than seven miles across at its widest point, and plunging more than a mile deep. And contrary to a common perception that the deep sea is a barren place, the canyon actually is home to a wide variety of creatures.

Modern technology is enabling scientists like those at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute to explore this once-unreachable place with sophisticated submersibles, and to share their finds with the rest of us.

The canyon has three distinct habitats: canyon wall, midwater and seafloor. The canyon walls are full of life - the steep, jagged terrain providing unlimited places for animals to live and hide. The midwater, described by the Monterey Bay Aquarium as a "shadowy twilight zone," is the largest of the deep-sea habitats. "This is a world," the aquarium says, "of near darkness, extreme cold and crushing pressure where weird-looking creatures abound." The final habitat, the seafloor, is bitterly cold and totally dark - but still not without life. "All kinds of animals live and feed here," the aquarium says, scavenging plants and other animals.


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To take a peek at the world, go to the aquarium's Web site at www.mbayaq.org/media/ dsc_life_flash/deep_sea.html.