A red tree coral (Primnoa) festooned with rockfish illustrates the relationships among benthic communities along the Olympic Coast. Click image for larger view and image credit.
Exploration for Deep-Sea Coral Communities in Washington
May 22 - June 4, 2006
After nearly two years of planning, a NOAA-led research team completed a successful exploration to document deep-sea coral and sponge communities off the Washington coast in May-June, 2006. The expedition used a robotic Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) diving off of the NOAA ship McArthur II. Its primary goal was to find and photograph living sea floor communities in Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary (OCNMS) and to learn more about the ecological role of deep coral habitats. Because deep sea corals and sponges form community structures that extend above the seafloor, they are easily damaged by ocean-floor disturbances such as contact with fishing gear and cable trenching. Moreover, their low reproductive rates, slow growth and patchy distribution limit their recovery from such disturbances. This stressed our urgency to know their location in the sanctuary and evaluate population trends over time, particularly in relation to a recent Essential Fish Habitat closure that went into effect days after our cruise.
Three principal investigators, Mary Sue Brancato and Ed Bowlby from Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary (OCNMS), and Jeff Hyland from National Centers for Coastal Ocean Sciences (NCCOS), led a team representing NOAA Fisheries Service, and the private consulting firm Aquanautix Consulting. They worked around the clock with the ship’s crew and pilots and technicians from the Canadian Scientific Submersible Facility, who operated the ROV. The May 22 to June 4 research cruise was made possible by primary funding from NOAA Ocean Exploration (OE), and with supplemental funding from NCCOS, OCNMS, and National Undersea Research Program.
Expedition: By The Numbers
- Days to Mobilize and Demobilize: 3
- Days at Sea: 9 (not counting mob/demob days)
- Days Operations Suspended for Weather: 2 (although conducted portion of days at Cape Flattery)
- Number of Dives: 11
- Longest Dive: 52 hours
- Number of Coral Species Observed: over 17
- Number of Target Sites Identified for Survey: 48
- Number of Target Sites Actually Surveyed: 15
- Sites with Coral: 14
- Max Depth Achieved: 657 meters (2,122 ft.)
- Depth rating of this ROV: 1,000 meters (3,280 ft.)
- Number of cameras: 4 video cameras (two to tape and two to hard drives) and 1 digital still camera
- Hours of videotaping: over 150 hours on each camera
- Miles of Sony DVCam videotape recorded: 19.60
- Digital stills: over 6,000 (including topside photos)
- Area of closure: 159 square miles (approx. 15 percent of sanctuary area)
- Percent area of sanctuary explored: less than 1 percent
- Length of McArthur II: 224 ft. (68.2 meters)
- Number of Science Party: 6
- Number of ROV party: 8
- Ship’s crew (including officers): 15
Updates & Logs
Click images or links below for detailed mission logs and updates.