A Ukrainian teenager recently made a startling discovery using a web-accessible underwater camera system located off the western coast of Canada.
A Ukrainian teenager has pointed scientists half a world away to a unique bit of their own underwater footage that shows one of the sea's biggest predators in action nearly a kilometer under the surface.
Fourteen-year-old Kirill Dudko alerted researchers at the University of Victoria (UVic) who operate the Neptune Canada ocean-observatory network to his find in an e-mail asking what kind of "monster" he had seen in their live video feed.
They immediately checked the tape and found the lightning-quick January 12 feeding incident to which he was referring.
The resulting clip -- initially on Dudko's YouTube channel -- quickly went viral among marine biologists and other ocean watchers for the rarity of its contents: a female elephant seal slurping up an unsuspecting hagfish near the seafloor off the southwest coast of Canada.
Researchers at UVic called the "avid science student's" contribution a great example of "citizen science."
The live feed that caught Dudko's attention was from a camera 894 meters under the surface at a site off Vancouver Island called Barkley Canyon.
Dudko reportedly told them he's taken to "surf[ing] the seafloor" from his home in Donetsk, an eastern Ukrainian industrial hub, since becoming interested in marine biology months ago.
"Kirill wrote an e-mail to the address at the official site and asked the scientists what the animal was that had a hagfish for dinner and provided a link to the recordings on YouTube," the boy's mother, Svitlana, told RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service. "To our great surprise, we actually received an answer the next day. Experts at Neptune Canada also sent an inquiry to scientists in the U.S. Kirill was in touch with them for a week, and when it became clear what animal it was, he was immediately informed."
CBCNews also chronicled Dudko's key role in the exciting find:
Researcher Kim Juniper says an email from the teen in Donetsk, Ukraine, caused a flurry of excitement.
"Monday morning we had an email from him saying, 'I saw something strange and weird. Some monster just ate a fish in front of me. What was it?' And that sent all of us into a bit of a flurry to back this up."
Juniper says it's the first time a seal has ever been recorded eating a hagfish, a creature so slimy other predators spit them out.
Kirill Dudko, 14, was watching a live stream of cameras on the ocean floor off Victoria from his home in the Ukraine. (CBC).
Dudko doesn't speak much English, and he was up past his bed time on a school night to explain the story with help from his mother Svetlana.
"I'm very proud of my son," she told CBC News.
In addition to the scientific community and casual wildlife fans, Dudko's sharp-eyed feat has also been picked up on social media by groups that range from educational innovators (@EducInnovations) to institutions hoping to encourage the study of Ukrainian as a second language in Canada (@ULEC_CIUS).