Mountains in the Deep: Exploring the Central Pacific Basin

Mission Logs

Follow along as participants in the cruise provide updates and reflections on their experiences, the science, the technology, and other elements of the expedition.


Expedition Summary

The Mountains in the Deep: Exploring the Central Pacific Basin expedition was a 23-day telepresence-enabled expedition to collect critical baseline information about unknown and poorly known deepwater areas of the Jarvis Island Unit and the Kingman Reef and Palmyra Atoll Unit of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument (PRIMNM); around Marae Moana (Cook Islands Marine Park); and the high seas.

May 17: Math on the High Seas

Many crew members use numbers in their daily work aboard the Okeanos Explorer. Math is exceptionally important in this line of work, whether performing simple calculations or solving complex problems. The knowledge and know-how of each highly talented crew member contributes to the mission.

May 16: Color in Deep-sea Octocorals

I am often asked why many deep-sea corals are so colorful in a completely dark environment. Because we are visual creatures, we may assume that color variation and patterns are always associated with visual cues. But deep-sea corals display colors in the dark for a myriad of reasons unrelated to visual cues. Regardless of the function, we can simply enjoy them for their dramatic colorful beauty.

May 15: Women of the Deck Department

What does it take to work on NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer? It takes a great attitude, a strong work ethic, intelligence, and grit. Lindsey Houska and Nicole Turpin of the deck department embody all of these traits – and more!

May 14: Ocean Exploration and the Winds, Waves, and Stars

The engineering team at the Global Foundation for Ocean Exploration specializes in designing, building, and operating robots that traverse the bottom of the ocean. We use sophisticated tools to visit remote ecosystems. Even with modern technology, however, we are still at the mercy of nature – as ocean explorers have been for thousands of years.

May 13: Birding on the High Seas

Like many biologists, science co-lead Scott France's interest in nature does not stop when I leave the deep-sea "office." He loves exploring the natural world on land as well and has taken advantage of the expedition to do some birding on the high seas.

May 12: Stability in a Dynamic Ocean

During remotely operated vehicle (ROV) operations, Deep Discoverer has to be able to navigate the bottom of the ocean while the ship is subjected to the forces of the ocean and wind on the surface. To make this possible, the ship must hold its position with respect to the seafloor while combating those external forces. In addition, the dual-body ROV system must work together to hold position.

May 11: Fish Associations

Despite getting many wonderful and interesting fish observations throughout these dives, the frequency of fish observations is relatively low. This could truly represent low fish abundances at these sites, possibly because we weren't working in their preferred habitats. Another explanation is that we see few fish because they are mobile and avoid the bright, noisy remotely operated vehicle

May 10: A Dive into the Abyss

Dive 08 was the deepest dive of the expedition, targeting abyssal depths around 4,400 meters in order to look at the geology of this portion of the Clipperton Fracture Zone. Scientists also made some interesting observations about the fish at these depths.

May 9: Why Do We Explore the Water Column?

The water column is one of the most underexplored environments on the planet. The majority of Okeanos Explorer dives focus on surveying the seafloor to understand the habitat and life there; however, if we slow down and take a closer look, we find that there is abundant life throughout the full water column.

May 8: Sea Stars

Deep-sea sea stars and brittle stars have evolved a dazzling array of feeding behaviors, ranging from surprisingly agile predation to filter feeding to more conventional scavenging.

May 7: Super-cute Deep-sea Cukes!

We have been treated to a menagerie of echinoderms during several of the dives of the Mountains in the Deep: Exploring the Central Pacific Basin expedition. By far the most lovable class of this phylum was the Holothuroidea, commonly known as sea cucumbers.

May 6: Jarvis Island: A Trove of Deep-sea Treasures

To quote one of our shore-based scientists, "this is the most fantastic thing I have ever seen!" Yesterday's dive was phenomenal. During Dive 05, we investigated a ridge off the southeast side of Jarvis Island and encountered several high-density communities of different organisms.

May 5: Return to the Line Islands

This NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer survey from American Samoa through the Line Islands is of particular interest to Bruce Mundy, with the NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service. Several years ago, he was a member of the first exploration by manned submersibles of Jarvis Island, Palmyra Atoll, and Kingman Reef, the U.S. possessions in the region.

May 4: Participating in an Expedition from Shore

When we were invited to join the mission to the Manihiki Plateau from the Exploration Command Center at Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute at Florida Atlantic University, we were not sure what to expect, as this would be the first time that we had participated in a scientific cruise without actually being on the research vessel.

May 4: Deep-sea Discoveries: New Insights Into Biodiversity of the Cook Islands

Biodiversity in the deep waters around the Cook Islands is poorly known. Much of our existing information comes from a voyage of a German research vessel in 2007. Two successful dives during the current expedition, however, revealed new insights into life in the deep in this region.

May 3: Reddit in the Central Pacific Basin

Our science team spent the morning of May 2, 2017, on Reddit hosting an AMA, or "Ask Me Anything" session. They answered questions from the public about our expedition to explore deep waters in the central Pacific – an area of the world where the vast majority of deeper waters remain unseen by human eyes.

May 2: How Did We Get Here?

One of the questions our shipboard scientists frequently receive is: How did you get there? We asked the scientists aboard NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer to tell us their stories and this is what they said.

May 1: The Physics Behind Shrinking Styrofoam Cups in the Deep Ocean

One of the traditions on an oceanographic cruise is to shrink Styrofoam cups which have been drawn on with a permanent marker by having the cups hitch a ride down into the deep ocean. But it begs the question: Why do the cups shrink when they take a trip down 1,000 or more meters deep?

April 30: What is the Deep Sea?

You often hear us say we are exploring the deep sea, but you may not have heard us explicitly define what part of the ocean is considered the "deep sea." Essentially, the deep sea is the part of our ocean that is dark, cold, food-poor, and typically deeper than 200 meters.

April 27: Ready, Set, Sail!

For Expedition Coordinator Kasey Cantwell, Mountains in the Deep: Exploring the Central Pacific Basin is her dream expedition and after months and years of planning and a busy in-port in American Samoa, she is excited to get going and see what will be discovered.

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