Darting luminous dots, waving fronds and crawling sea creatures loom into sharp focus.
Scientists are huddled around a big screen at NIWA's offices in Wellington, New Zealand, watching as a remotely operated vehicle or ROV, glides and hovers over fragile corals, honing in on life in the ocean depths just north of the Cook Islands.
The scientific agency is working with scientists on the US research ship Okeanos Explorer which is using robots to explore unknown parts of the Pacific.
Scientists from around the world are also tuning in and today they include several from Russia, Japan and Canada.
NIWA principal scientist Malcolm Clark said Wednesday's dive, 260 kilometres north of the Cook Islands, revealed dense forests of coral.
He said the exploration was valuable for future management of the Cook Island's marine park, Marae Moana.
"Getting information like this enables us to put the biodiversity in a much more regional context, to find out what is unique, what's quite common, where boundaries occur, where species can't cross from one area to another."
The scientists were able to direct the team on board the Okeanos Explorer to collect samples using the robotic claw of one of the remotely operated vehicles.
Dr Clark said the data and samples would be sent back to the islands' authorities and would help with sustainability around fishing and seabed mining.
"The sort of information we're collecting with these dives gives us a good indication of what is down there at the depths they might be interested in but it gives us a good idea of what the wider environmental impacts could be of any human disturbance, any mining activity on the deep sea floor," said Dr Clark.
Dr Clark said the scientists were amazed at the dense coral forests near the Cooks compared to some of the relatively barren areas they'd seen on other dives.
He said it was the first time NIWA had been involved in such exploration right from the initial proposal, through to the dive planning, decisions on what to collect and joint supervision of the dive in real time.
"It is amazing sitting at your desk, asking a ship 4000 miles north of New Zealand off the Cook Islands to pick up a rock, or pick up a coral or a sponge," he said.
The Okeanos Explorer is on its way north to its next dive site near Jarvis Island