NOAA's Okeanos Explorer Journeys Into Pacific Deepwater

This stunningly beautiful jellyfish was seen in the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument while exploring the informally named “Enigma Seamount” at a depth of about 3,700 meters. Scientists identified this hydromedusa as belonging to the genus Crossota. (Credit: NOAA)

Posted by Michelle Howard

The NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer will send a remotely
operated vehicle into deepwater protected areas of the central
Pacific Ocean this week - and you can follow along live
online.

Using the Deep Discoverer ROV, scientists will investigate
deepwater habitats, geology, and the biology of sea animals as it
dives as far as 3.7 miles (6,000 meters) deep.

The 2017 explorations will run through September and are part of
the third and final year of NOAA's Campaign to Address Pacific
monument Science, Technology, and Ocean NEeds, known as CAPSTONE,
a major multi-year science initiative focusing on the deep ocean
of U.S. marine protected areas in the central and western
Pacific.

Managers of protected areas, the science community, and others
will use the information NOAA collects to make informed decisions
and learn more about the deep ocean.

"With each expedition we not only provide scientists and decision
makers with the necessary data to conduct their work, but also
reach new audiences who are fascinated by what we are seeing in
the deep ocean," said Alan Leonardi, Ph.D, director of NOAA's
Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, the federal program
responsible for coordinating the expeditions."This public
engagement improves science literacy and fosters an interest in
the sciences among young people - perhaps leading to the next
generation of ocean explorers."

The 2017 expeditions will take place in and around the National
Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa, the Rose Atoll Marine
National Monument, the Musicians Seamounts, and the Pacific
Remote Islands Marine National Monument, including the areas of
Howland, Baker and Jarvis Islands, Palmyra Atoll and Kingman
Reef, and Johnston Atoll. While this year's dives will focus on
waters of the United States Exclusive Economic Zone, NOAA will
partner with several Pacific Island countries to explore the deep
waters of Samoa, the Republic of Kiribati's Phoenix Islands
Protected Area, the Cook Islands, and New Zealand's Territory of
Tokelau.

CAPSTONE, which began in July 2015, focuses on collecting
baseline information to support science and management needs in
these vast and largely unexplored areas. CAPSTONE also provides
critical information relevant to emerging regional issues like
deep-sea mining and the potential expansion of the U.S. Extended
Continental Shelf. Extensive levels of cross-NOAA support and
collaboration, as well as interagency and academic partnerships,
have been crucial to both setting priorities and conducting
exploration activities.

"We never know exactly what we'll see," said Kelley Elliott,
expedition manager. "During the first two years of CAPSTONE,
Okeanos Explorer expeditions discovered new species, observed
known animals in new locations or exhibiting unseen behaviors,
and found living animals previously only seen as lab specimens."

A wide range of scientists, students, and managers have
participated in more than 100 ROV dives under CAPSTONE, and live
video streamed to the web from the ROVs has received more than
five million views. The Okeanos Explorer also maps the seafloor,
and to date has mapped more than 300,000 square kilometers, an
area roughly the size of Italy, under CAPSTONE. During both its
mapping and ROV expeditions, the ship routinely collects data on
seafloor depth, the composition of the seafloor, and water
temperature and chemistry.

The 2017 expeditions will be covered on the NOAA Office of Ocean
Exploration and Research website. Join us on Facebook, Twitter,
Instagram, and YouTube.

NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer is operated, managed and maintained by
NOAA's Office of Marine and Aviation Operations which includes
commissioned officers of the NOAA Corps and civilian wage
mariners. NOAA's Office of Ocean Exploration and Research
operates, manages and maintains the cutting-edge ocean
exploration systems on the vessel and ashore.

Feb 14, 2017

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