The ocean is 95% unexplored, mostly unseen by human eyes. This unknown nature of the ocean presents a huge challenge for resource managers, who cannot direct resources they are unfamiliar with. To help resource managers better understand the ocean and protect its resources, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has developed a systematic program for exploring the ocean, analyzing oceanic data, and educating people about its findings. One such mission is being carried out using the Okeanos Explorer, a remotely operated vehicle designed to dive up to 6,000 meters deep while transmitting images and video to people on shore.
From July 8 to August 17, scientists commissioned by the NOAA will explore the biodiversity and distribution of deep sea habitats and marine life within the cold seeps, deep coral communities, undersea canyons, landslide features, and seamounts of the Northeast U.S. Canyons and at Mytilus Seamount. Exploring these areas, which are located in the seas east of New England, will help us better understand the ocean. And when I say “us,” I’m not only referring to scientists; I really mean us! The NOAA is live streaming each of the expedition’s 36 days so we can witness the strange and beautiful sea creatures, too. For the first time, the Okeanos’ will provide full telepresence-enabled ocean exploration giving us a glimpse at the largely unknown waters of the U.S.
The Okeanos is the only federally funded U.S. ship assigned to exploring the unknown ocean for the purpose of discovery. Interestingly, most of the scientists participating in the Deepwater Canyons expedition are not aboard the ship; rather, they view live images from the ship’s camera from Exploration Command Centers ashore or from their own desks. Images of the seafloor are also live streamed over standard internet connections, enabling people around the world, from the classroom to the living room, to explore along with the scientists. This helps the NOAA in their mission to increase ocean literacy. The telemetry system providing the live stream provides data at rates up to 21 Mb/s (megabytes per second) from the ship to the shore and up to 4 Mb/s from shore to the ship.
Between 8:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. each day this week, catch the final live streams of the Okeanos’ exploration. For glimpses at the wildlife found along the way and the scientists controlling the mission, scroll through the pictures below.
Map showing submarine canyon and seamount areas to be explored during the Okeanos Explorer Expedition of 2013
A colony with bright color and full branches with many extended polyps
Bobtail squid found along the ride
Rare stalked crinoids were observed in the deep waters of Block Canyon
A baby octopus (Graneledone verrucosa) found in Veatch Canyon
Benthic ctenophores, a rare find
Lithodid king crab and a spiky urchin
The Deepwater Canyons Expedition of 2013 is a continuation of former oceanic explorations by the NOAA in 2011 and 2012. To view this year’s live stream, visit the NOAA website.
Check out the live stream here:
images via NOAA