Lophelia II 2009
Deepwater Coral Expedition: Reefs, Rigs, and Wrecks
August 19 – September 12, 2009
NOAA research vessel Ronald H. Brown Ship Tracker Map
A close-up of the scleractinian coral Lophelia pertusa from the Mississippi Canyon 751 site at approximately 450 meter (137 foot) depth. This image was taken with the Seaeye Falcon DR ROV (depth-rated remotely operated vehicle) during the first cruise of this program, in September 2008. Click image for larger view and image credit.
Click image to view a slideshow.
This is the third cruise in a four-year project sponsored by the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research (OER) and the U.S. Minerals Management Service (MMS), a division of the Department of the Interior. The overall goal of this project is to explore new areas of the Gulf of Mexico in search of coral communities; in doing so, we can develop the tools to better predict the occurrence of corals and to understand why they occur where they do.
This effort begins long before we go to sea, with a group of scientists poring over industry three-dimensional seismic data and bathymetry (depth measurements) providing information on the structure and composition of the sea-floor. When a number of likely sites are chosen, we survey these "high-probability" sites with various tools to gather higher-resolution bathymetry data and to get our first real look at the seafloor. As we embark on this cruise, we have already discovered a handful of new coral sites, and we hope to discover even more.
In addition to mapping out coral distribution, we will be collecting the data necessary to fully describe the habitats of the corals, the communities associated with them, and the levels of genetic connectivity among the coral communities. We will also be collecting live corals, and transporting them back to the laboratory to conduct experiments, and to better understand the factors controlling their distribution.
During the second part of the cruise, we will also be surveying shipwrecks in order to examine the coral communities in the wrecks, as well as to describe and preserve these potentially historic sites. If we can accomplish these ambitious goals, we will be well on our way to understanding the cold-water corals of the Gulf of Mexico.
You can access the Ocean Explorer Lophelia II 2009 News Feed here:
Updates & Logs
Click images or links below for detailed mission logs and updates.
Mission Summary After nearly a month at sea
, 20 dives with the remotely operated vehicle (ROV) Jason II
at 17 sites (including 5 shipwrecks), and an incredible 356 hours of bottom time, the expedition claims numerous successes.
A tanker that was sunk by a German U-boat during WWII, the Gulf Penn wreck
has become a reef for a variety of corals, particularly Lophelia
September 9 Excitement, anticipation, anxiety...
The moment researchers return from the Ewing Bank dive, they begin to plan and strategize for the final and most complex
recovery of this cruise.
September 8 The Ewing Banks wreck
is peaceful yet poignant. The ship’s form is delineated by remnant copper sheathing and a keel centerline running the length of the vessel.
September 7 Today's mission:
Explore an unidentified shipwreck actually sitting in 7,400 feet (2,255 meters) of water! The site represents the deepest historic shipwreck ever discovered in the Gulf of Mexico. Includes Video
September 4 The habitat of deep-sea corals
has very little light other that what ROV Jason
provides. That's one reason why images brought back from this realm are genuinely unique.
August 31 On the home stretch of Leg 1!
At every site visited, researchers have found and collected at least a few deep-sea corals, and at some locations we have hit the jackpot. Includes Videos
August 30 Photomosaicking
is great way to initially survey a community. This non-destructive technique lets researchers identify first-order patterns of animal distributions and biological associations.
August 27 Maintaining a world-class vessel
with such a diverse mission requires a highly skilled and well-trained crew consisting of a cadre of talented individuals.
August 21 See all of the major varieties of deep-sea corals
, including stony corals (Scleractinia
), such as Lophelia pertusa
; soft corals (Octocorallia), including gorgonian sea fans and bamboo corals; black corals (Antipatharia
); and hydrocorals (Stylasteridae
). Includes Video