Explore the Ocean’s Depths with NOAA

Image: NOAA Ocean Exploration, NOAA Ocean Exploration, Deep Connections 2019

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)’s latest undersea exploration is underway in New England. The Okeanos Explorer ship is the only federal vessel dedicated to journeying to the ocean’s depths for the sake of science.

  • Right now, the ship is exploring the New England Seamount chain off the coast of Massachusetts, including part of the only marine national monument in the U.S. Atlantic Ocean.
  • The seamounts are massive underwater extinct volcanic mountains, and they’re home to striking deep-sea corals, sea cucumbers, and a variety of other deep-sea life.

You can catch a front-row seat to the action: NOAA’s live stream is here, and the first dive is scheduled for Saturday.

Why This Matters: The Okeanos Explorer travels to parts unknown underwater to better understand our ocean. The data collected on its missions is often the first time sites are mapped and analyzed, and that information becomes a baseline of knowledge. The Okeanos missions have helped inform ocean management and protection decisions, and it has discovered a number of new species. The ocean is wildly unexplored and essential to the future of the planet — and the Okeanos missions help scientists and the public better understand our deep waters. 

Status of the Canyons and Seamounts: The Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument is the only underwater monument of its kind in the U.S. Atlantic, and its existence has been challenged almost since its creation by President Obama in 2016. Earlier this year, the Supreme Court declined to hear a case, challenging its designation. But work remains to reinstate proper protections after President Trump’s executive order allowed commercial fishing in its waters.

What’s on the Agenda: Coming off of an expedition in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, the Okeanos has a mountainous itinerary ahead including:

  • Retriever Seamount: this seamount is part of the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts, and on a 2014 dive had the most diversity of life, including corals, sponges, and anemones
  • The Atlantis II Seamounts: the last time the ship explored these three seamounts, it noted “pillow lava flows” on the extinct volcanoes and a dumbo octopus sighting — this is the first dive, scheduled for this weekend.

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