2016 Deepwater Exploration of the Marianas




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2016 Deepwater Exploration of the Marianas:
Expedition Summary

Infographic summarizing accomplishments from the 2016 Deepwater Exploration of the Marians expedition.

Infographic summarizing accomplishments from the 2016 Deepwater Exploration of the Marianas expedition. Image courtesy of NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, 2016 Deepwater Exploration of the Marianas. Download PDF version (953 Kb).

Overview map showing seafloor bathymetry, remotely operated vehicle (ROV) dives, and conductivity temperature and depth (CTD) casts conducted during the three-cruise Deepwater Exploration of the Marianas expedition. Bathymetry data collected during the transit to Guam prior to the start of the expedition is also shown.

Overview map showing seafloor bathymetry, remotely operated vehicle (ROV) dives, and conductivity temperature and depth (CTD) casts conducted during the three-cruise Deepwater Exploration of the Marianas expedition. Bathymetry data collected during the transit to Guam prior to the start of the expedition is also shown. Click image for credit and larger view.

April 20 – July 10, 2016

This expedition is part of the three-year Campaign to Address the Pacific monument Science, Technology, and Ocean NEeds (CAPSTONE), an initiative to collect deepwater baseline information to support science and management decisions in and around U.S. marine protected areas in the central and western Pacific.

 

Summary Accomplishments

The 2016 Deepwater Exploration of the Marianas expedition was a 59-day, three leg telepresence-enabled expedition including remotely operated vehicle, CTD rosette, and mapping operations to explore unknown and poorly known areas in and around the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument (MTMNM) and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI). The primary expedition goal was to acquire baseline information in deepwater areas to support science and management needs and to understand the diversity and distribution of deepwater habitats in and around the CNMI and MTMNM. Major accomplishments from the expedition are summarized below. Download a PDF version of this summary (2.9 Mb).

 

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Seen while exploring a ridge feature at a depth of ~2,500 meters, the fish measured about 10 centimeters long. It is in the same order (Ophidiiformes) as cusk eels, but belongs to a distinct family (Aphyonidae); this is the first time that a fish in this family has ever been seen alive! With its transparent, gelatinous skin, which lacked scales, and its highly reduced eyes that lacked pigment, the fish was truly a remarkable, and ghostly, find. Video courtesy of NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, 2016 Deepwater Exploration of the Marianas.

 

Mapped more than 73,800 square kilometers of seafloor – an area larger than the state of West Virginia!

 

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An exciting discovery during the exploration of a seamount in the process of being subducted under the Philippine Sea Plate was an undescribed species of Pachycara (or “eelpout”), an abyssal fish genus of the family Zoarcidae. Video courtesy of NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, 2016 Deepwater Exploration of the Marianas.

 

Conducted 41 ROV dives from 240 to 6,000 meters depth to survey for precious coral or bottomfish fishery habitats; look at deep-sea coral communities and manganese-encrusted habitats at seamounts; search for hydrothermal vents, mud volcanoes, and associated communities; investigate subduction zone habitats and the abyssal/hadal transition zone; and better understand the geologic history of the region.

 

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This incredible active hydrothermal vent was imaged for the first time during the Marianas expedition. It was 30 meters high and gushing high-temperature fluid full of metal particulates. This vent was home to many different species, including Chorocaris shrimp, Munidopsis squat lobsters, Austinograea crabs, limpets, mussels, and snails. Video courtesy of NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, 2016 Deepwater Exploration of the Marianas.

 

Investigated a variety of of different geological features, including extinct calderas, active volcanoes, mud volcanoes, fresh lava flows, and carbonate platforms.

 

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One of the goals of the expedition was to explore and document the diversity and distribution of bottomfish habitats. The information collected during the expedition will provide resource managers with information needed to help make better and more precise essential fish habitat designations for the Marianas, to protect these commercially important species. Video courtesy of NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, 2016 Deepwater Exploration of the Marianas.

 

Collected more than 48 TB of data, including multibeam sonar, single beam echo sounder, subbottom profiler, Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler (ADCP), eXpendable Bathy Thermograph (XBT), temperature and dissolved oxygen profiles, surface oceanographic and meteorological sensors, video, imagery, and associated dive and video products. All the data will be made publicly available through national archives.

 

Engaged the local communities in Guam and Saipan, as well as audiences around the world.

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