Greenpeace International has released the first-ever footage of the Antarctic's seafloor and its breathtaking biodiversity.

The environmental campaign group released exclusive footage of parts of the Antarctic's seabed that had never been visited by humans before on 24 January.

The footage shows small organisms swimming around as well as a multitude of sea plants gracefully swaying back and forth. The seafloor is home to several species of starfish, sponges, corals, and sea squirts.

"I really didn't know what to expect, but we saw so much life, it was very diverse. There were a lot of species of sponges, corals, sea squirts, a lot of different kinds of sea stars and their relatives, basket stars, feather stars," said John Hocevar, Greenpeace US marine biologist who piloted the submarine.

"It was just incredible how the whole bottom was carpeted with life. I hope the work we're doing down here shows exactly why we need to protect this precious ecosystem," he added.

A necessary dive

Greenpeace hopes this footage will encourages calls for a 1.8 million square kilometres sanctuary in the Antarctic Ocean in order to protect the vulnerable species that live in its waters. It would be the largest sanctuary of its kind ever to be created.

The sanctuary would provide a safe haven for species like penguins and whales, and "putting the waters off-limits to the industrial fishing vessels sucking up the tiny shrimp-like krill", according to Greenpeace.

The video itself aims to show that apart from already vulnerable aquatic creatures that live in the arctic, there is an important ecosystem located underneath the surface that is worth preserving as well.

Greenpeace's ship, the Arctic Sunrise is on a three-month exploration of the Antarctic where it will carry scientific research that includes submarine dives to the ocean floor and sampling for plastic pollution.

Dr Susanne Lockhart, an Antarctic biologist who also co-piloted the submarine said that although the research was still in its early stages, there was clear evidence that the ecosystem found on the Antarctic's seabed needed protection.

"We'll be doing further exploration of the bottom of the sea to help determine specific areas that should be a priority for protection from commercial fishing in these pristine waters, as well as building a body of evidence to support proposals for protection in the Antarctic Ocean," she said.

Greenpeace's findings, including the above footage will be presented to the Antarctic Ocean Commission or Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resource (CCAMLR) in October 2018. The commission, of which the UK is a member, will consider a EU proposal to create a sanctuary as well as localised protection in the Antarctic.