Deep-Sea Symphony: Exploring the Musicians Seamounts






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On Dive 9 at Verdi Seamount, the team observed this ctenophore that may be new to science as it is an undescribed species and in an undescribed family.

On Dive 09 at Verdi Seamount, the team observed this ctenophore that may be new to science as it is an undescribed species and in an undescribed family. Click image for credit and larger view.

On September 15, 2017 while diving on Verdi Seamount this curious rattail fish (Coryphaenoides sp.) with parasitic copepod on fin checked out ROV Deep Discoverer.

On September 15, while diving on Verdi Seamount, this curious rattail fish (Coryphaenoides sp.) with a parasitic copepod on its fin checked out ROV Deep Discoverer. Click image for credit and larger view.

ROV Deep Discoverer explores talus slope on Verdi Seamount.

ROV Deep Discoverer explores a talus slope on Verdi Seamount. Click image for credit and larger view.

 


NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer
September 15, 2017

Dive 09: Verdi Seamount

Remotely operated vehicle Deep Discoverer (D2) touched down on a steep slope of Verdi Seamount at 3,090 meters (1.9 miles), part way up the flank of the volcanic ridge. We arrived at the contact between a moderately sedimented talus field and low relief lava outcrops, including pillow flows and lobate lava forms. As we explored up slope, the substrate consisted of talus, pillow flows, and sediment pockets in between. Throughout the dive, biological observations included a moderate number of primnoid corals, black corals, glass sponges, and numerous numerous small invertebrates including polychaetes, mysid shrimps, amphipods, isopods, and a ctenophore that may be new to science. Fishes included a lizard fish (Bathysaurus mollis), rattail fish (Coryphaenoides sp.),and a cusk eel (Ophidioform). The team collected two rock samples that should help us better understand the hot spot and mid-ocean ridge interactions, and and two biological specimens: a black coral and a bamboo coral with associates. As D2 left the seafloor at 3,021 meters (1.88 miles), the team observed another transition from a sedimented plain back to a low slope sedimented talus field, suggesting we may have been exploring the saddle between the western and eastern bathymetric highs.


 


 

 

 

Our science team is always excited about acts of predation when exploring the deep sea! Aside from learning more about the behaviors and associations of the organisms observed, these sorts of predation events were rarely documented prior to the beginning of NOAA’s Campaign to Address Pacific monument Science, Technology, and Ocean NEeds (CAPSTONE) in 2015.

Our science team is always excited about acts of predation when exploring the deep sea! Aside from learning more about the behaviors and associations of the organisms observed, these sorts of predation events were rarely documented prior to the beginning of NOAA’s Campaign to Address Pacific monument Science, Technology, and Ocean NEeds (CAPSTONE) in 2015. Click image for credit and larger view.

Dive 8 revealed another high density deep sea coral community at Wagner Seamount.

Dive 08 revealed another high-density deep-sea coral community at Wagner Seamount. Click image for credit and larger view.

This pair took our science team by surprise. These two Paralomis crabs appear to be in a delicate mating dance.

This pair took our science team by surprise. These two Paralomis crabs appear to be in a delicate mating dance. Click image for credit and larger view.

 


NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer
September 14, 2017

Dive 08: Wagner Seamount

Remotely operated vehicle Deep Discoverer (D2) arrived on bottom near the base of a volcanic pillow cone at a water depth of 2,428 meters (7,965 feet). The seafloor here was composed of talus of various sizes, including large boulders and some intact lava flow outcrops. Soon after, D2 transited over an extensive sheet flow, approximately one-meter-thick at 2,430 meters (7,972 feet) that persisted upslope. The dive started slow for biology observations with some low-density communities. As we transected up the slope of the cone feature, the community increased in density with Chrysogorgid corals, mushroom corals (Anthomastus sp.), and a diversity of black corals (Antipatharians) along the way. As the slope increased, a mix of sheet flow and pillow outcrops with talus were observed. Large, isolated boulders with abundant corals were seen atop mostly barren sheet flows. As D2 continued, the slope of the feature increased, but few fauna were observed. Upon reaching the summit of the cone, we were surrounded by a bamboo coral forest at 2,248 meters (7,375 feet). The high-density community was made up of large bamboo colonies all around with a diversity of octocorals, black corals, glass sponges, and more organisms interspersed between. A highlight of the dive was two crabs seen locking in what was determined to be a mating embrace. Other fauna observations included a diversity of brittle stars and rare or novel seastars and a potentially new species of sponge.


 


 

 

 

Rock samples collected during today’s dive, as well as every other dive, will be used to better understand the age and geologic history of this complex region.

Rock samples collected during today’s dive, as well as every other dive, will be used to better understand the age and geologic history of this complex region. Click image for credit and larger view.

Always an exciting find, this deep sea lizardfish was observed close to the shallow edge of the species depth range.

Always an exciting find, this deep-sea lizardfish was observed close to the shallow edge of the species depth range. Click image for credit and larger view.

A diverse, dense coral community was present throughout the dive at Debussy Seamount. Several colonies were very large, indicating a stable environment for many years.

A diverse, dense coral community was present throughout the dive at Debussy Seamount. Several colonies were very large, indicating a stable environment for many years. Click image for credit and larger view.

 


NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer
September 13, 2017

Dives 06 and 07: Debussy Seamount

Today we conducted two remotely operated vehicle (ROV) dives. The first, Dive 06, was aborted after a short time in the water due to a technical issue with ROV Deep Discoverer (D2). While our benthic team was disappointed, the ROVs are outfitted with sensors that collected valuable information about the water column during the descent and ascent that can be used to learn more about this largely unexplored biome. Once back on deck, the ROV team quickly debugged the issue, and we were back in the water a couple hours later.

Dive 07, though short, was exceptional. D2 landed on a low relief lava flow and rubble at a depth of 2,044 meters (6,706 feet). From the moment the vehicles reached the seafloor, a diverse coral community abounded. A novel find was a sea star predating upon a coral, as this was the first time a member of this genus of sea star has been observed eating a coral. Another unusual sighting was that of a deep-sea lizardfish at a depth of 2,031 meters (6,663 feet), the upper limit of its known depth range. As the vehicle traversed a large intact lava flow, the dense coral and sponge community continued. Alternating talus fields, intact lava flow units, and combinations of both were observed from 2,030 meters (6,663 feet) until end of the dive. The slope from beginning to end of the dive was almost negligible, and yet this dive possibly produced the most continuous high-density coral and sponge community of the expedition to date.


 


 

 

 

Rough seas and high winds to the port side of NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer.  Photo: Art Howard.

Rough seas and high winds to the port side of NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer. Click image for credit and larger view.

 


NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer
September 12, 2017

Rough Sea State and High Winds Cancel Dive

While transiting overnight to today’s planned dive site at Liszt Seamount, the seas and winds picked up, creating a rocky ride for all on board. Unfortunately, by morning the conditions did not improve. The sea state was rough and winds were sustained at 25 knots (28 mph), making conditions unsuitable to safely launch the remotely operated vehicle. The Okeanos team decided to keep moving north towards Wednesday’s dive site at Debussy Seamount. All on board hunkered down and to catch up on dive summaries, vehicle maintenance, and other projects. Depending on how the seas and weather fair throughout the expedition, the team will try to return for a dive on Liszt Seamount later in the cruise.


 


 

 

 

Glass sponge observed at 2,730 meters while diving at Gounod Seamount on September 11, 2017.

Glass sponge observed at 2,730 meters (8,960 feet) while diving at Gounod Seamount on September 11, 2017. Click image for credit and larger view.

Sea spider measuring nearly 1 foot in diameter feeds on an anemone on Gounod Seamount.

A sea spider measuring nearly 30 centimeters (one foot) in diameter feeds on an anemone on Gounod Seamount. Click image for credit and larger view.

Dandelion siphonophore observed at Gounod Seamount. This community of zooids, making up the siphonophore, was anchored to the surrounding substrate.

Dandelion siphonophore observed at Gounod Seamount. This community of zooids, making up the siphonophore, was anchored to the surrounding substrate. Click image for credit and larger view.

video Watch video of a swimming polychaete worm seen during the dive.

 


NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer
September 11, 2017

Dive 05: Gounod Seamount

The purpose of Dive 05 was to survey one of a series of small terraced features close to the summit of Gounod Seamount, characterize the distribution and abundance of benthic fauna, and to collect rock samples that can be used to determine the age and geochemistry of the feature. Remotely operated vehicle Deep Discoverer (D2) reached the base of the summit at a depth of 2,908 meters (9,540 feet). The team observed a talus slope consisting of various sizes of broken rock with sediment interspersed. A talus rock sample was collected from the landing area. Dead sponge stalks abounded, although few living animals were observed. As the dive continued, geological observations included alternating intact pillow flows, talus, and sheet flows. Biological observations included sparsely distributed sponges and corals, a polychaete, snails, a squat lobster, various fish, and a sea spider measuring nearly 30 centimeters (one foot) in diameter. While the steep wall did not harbor as dense of community as observed at shallower depths on other seamounts, there was a relatively high diversity and abundance organisms present in comparison to other dives at these depths. In the end, more living sponges were observed than corals, and there actually was an impressive abundance of diversity of life, with over 50 different organisms observed. The dive was slightly shortened due to escalating weather state and D2 left bottom at a water depth of 2,633 meters (8,638 feet).


 


 

 

 

On September 10, 2017 while exploring Sibelius Seamount, the team observed this garden of coral at a depth of 2,465 meters. This garden was one of two high-density communities observed during the dive.

On September 10, 2017, while exploring Sibelius Seamount, the team observed this garden of coral at a depth of 2,465 meters (8,080 feet). This garden was one of two high-density communities observed during the dive. Click image for credit and larger view.

This hatchetfish was spotted in the water column at a depth of 500 meters during midwater transects on September 10, 2017.

This hatchetfish was spotted in the water column at a depth of 500 meters (1,640 feet) during midwater transects on September 10, 2017. Click image for credit and larger view.

This vibrant yellow glass sponge (Bolosoma sp.) was observed at a depth of 2,479 meters while exploring Sibelius Seamount.

This vibrant yellow glass sponge (Bolosoma sp.) was observed at a depth of 2,479 meters (8,133 feet) while exploring Sibelius Seamount. Click image for credit and larger view.

 


NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer
September 10, 2017

Dive 04: Sibelius Seamount and Midwater Transects

Today’s dive was the best of both worlds: exploration of both the seafloor and the water column. For the benthic portion of the dive, remotely operated vehicle (ROV) Deep Discoverer (D2) reached the seafloor of Sibelius Seamount at a depth 2,600 meters (8,530 feet), slowly climbed up the steep slope of a circular outcrop, and finally moved up the ridge to the flat summit of the seamount. Early on in the dive, the team observed a talus (broken rocks) slope with a relatively low density of animals, including jellyfish, a tumbling snail, sea cucumbers, and crinoids. As D2 moved up the slope, the density of animals greatly increased and we observed an ensemble of benthic organisms, including a variety of corals, sponges, echinoderms, sea stars, fishes like sorceress and cusk eels, and more. In total, the team observed two separate high-density communities.

After the benthic portion of the dive, the ROV pilots maneuvered D2 up through the water column and conducted 100-meter midwater transects at depths 800, 700, 600, 500, 400, and 300 meters. During the ascents between transect depths, the ROV tether was kept behind the vehicle so as not to disturb the water, and the ROVs ascended slowly at a speed of about 10 meters per minute. While exploring at various depths in the water column, the team observed siphonophores, ctenophores, salps, jellies, an eel, a hatchetfish and other fishes, and pteropods. D2 also got inked by a squid! This was the first of seven dives during this expedition that will be wholly or partially dedicated to water column exploration. The team is excited to continue exploring this largely unknown biome.


 


 

 

 

This high density coral and sponge community was observed at a depth of ~2,300 meters while exploring Beethoven Ridge.

This high-density coral and sponge community was observed at a depth of ~2,300 meters (7,545 feet) while exploring Beethoven Ridge. Click image for credit and larger view.

The team observed this unidentified glass sponge while exploring Beethoven Ridge on September 9, 2017. A small sample was collected to help the scientific community identify the sponge.

The team observed this unidentified glass sponge while exploring Beethoven Ridge on September 9, 2017. A small sample was collected to help the scientific community identify the sponge. Click image for credit and larger view.

Just one of many Anthomastus sp., a type of octocoral, observed at the summit of Beethoven Ridge.

Just one of many Anthomastus sp., a type of octocoral, observed at the summit of Beethoven Ridge. Click image for credit and larger view.

video Watch video from the dive.

 


NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer
September 9, 2017

Dive 03: Beethoven Ridge

The Musicians Seamounts are largely unexplored and while small portions of this seamount group have been previously mapped during transits, the resolution of the existing data is often too low to plan a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) dive track. Last night, the onboard mapping team collected higher resolution bathymetric data of Beethoven Ridge and the surrounding area. This data was reviewed by the science leads early this morning to finalize today’s dive track.

ROV Deep Discoverer reached the seafloor of Beethoven’s Ridge at a depth 2,525 meters (8,280 feet). Throughout the dive, the team observed a variety of geological features and a large high-density coral and sponge community. Geological observations included a talus field, which is a bunch of broken rocks of various sizes with sediment in between; dramatic lava flow outcrops; pillow lavas; and lobate lava. Biological observations included a variety of corals (many Anthomastus sp.), glass sponges, crinoids, an arrowtooth eel, a comb jelly, a sea toad, sea stars and brittle stars, sea pens, and more! We also observed several precious corals, which is a particularly interesting find as one observed type is known from the Hawaiian Islands.


 


 

 

 

This Primnoid coral was observed at a depth of approximately 3,280 meters while diving on “Beach Ridge”. Participating scientists suggest this may be a new genus due to the arrangement of the polyps on the main stalk.

This Primnoid coral was observed at a depth of approximately 3,280 meters (2.0 miles) while diving on “Beach Ridge.” Participating scientists suggest this may be a new genus due to the arrangement of the polyps on the main stalk. Click image for credit and larger view.

Glass sponges can provide habitat and protection for small organisms like this shrimp, observed at a depth of 3,146 meters.

Glass sponges can provide habitat and protection for small organisms like this shrimp, observed at a depth of 3,146 meters (1.95 miles). Click image for credit and larger view.

This chanux, a type of anglerfish, was observed at a depth of approximately 3,148 meters. Scientists observed this was an unusual find due to the bright red color and ciri on the fish’s body.

This chanux, a type of anglerfish, was observed at a depth of approximately 3,148 meters (1.96 miles). Scientists observed this was an unusual find due to the bright red color and ciri on the fish’s body. Click image for credit and larger view.

video Watch video from the dive.

 


NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer
September 8, 2017

Dive 02: “Beach Ridge”

Dive 02 took place at a site the mission team dubbed “Beach Ridge,” after the American composer and pianist, Amy Marcy Cheney Beach. This was the first remotely operated vehicle (ROV) dive ever conducted in the Musicians Seamounts and the first in a series that will investigate the similarities and differences in community composition between different features across the Musicians Seamounts. We are particularly interested in the connectivity of coral and sponge communities and the possibility for endemism (endemic animals are those that exist only in one geographic region) in these areas. This dive transited upslope along a small ridge at the summit of this ridge-like volcanic construct. ROV Deep Discoverer reached the seafloor at 3,280 meters (~2 miles) and explored the ridge for approximately four hours. Throughout the dive, the team observed a glass sponge (Hyalonema sp.), at least two different types of shrimp, sea pens, cusk eel, an unusual chanux (a type of anglerfish), two types of black corals, and a swimming polychaete worm. The team also observed a Primnoid coral that may be a new genus and several colonies of Iridogorgia that are likely a significant depth range extension. Geological observations included broken pillow lava and talus, which are to be expected at the base of a ridge structure.

 

 


 


 

 

 

One of many sightings during today’s dive of a seastar feeding on coral. Here you can see a Calliaster sp. seastar tube feet feeding on bamboo coral.

One of many sightings during today’s dive of a seastar feeding on coral. Here you can see a Calliaster sp. sea star's tube feet feeding on bamboo coral. Click image for credit and larger view.

While at “Tropic of Cancer” Seamount, we observed a diversity of coral and sponge species. Shown here is a glass sponge and a diversity of octocorals.

While at “Tropic of Cancer” Seamount, we observed a diversity of coral and sponge species. Shown here is a glass sponge and a diversity of octocorals. Click image for credit and larger view.

video Watch video from the dive.

 


NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer
September 7, 2017

Dive 01: “Tropic of Cancer” Seamount

Today’s dive took place at the “Tropic of Cancer” seamount, located about 90 nautical miles north of Oahu, Hawaii. The dive scaled the slope and crest of a ridge at the summit of the seamount. The seamount is isolated from surrounding seamounts and while there was some pre-existing mapping data, it had never been explored with a remotely operated vehicle (ROV). The primary objective of today’s dive was to ground truth a deep-sea coral habitat suitability predictive model by NOAA’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, which had indicated this seamount may provide suitable habitat for dense and diverse deep-sea coral communities. As ROV Deep Discoverer reached the seafloor at 1,855 meters (6,085 feet), a diversity of corals immediately came into view. We encountered several different species of coral including bamboo corals, bubblegum corals, black corals, and mushroom corals. Several species were present in high density and many were very large, indicating an old colony. Other animals observed during the dive included a holothurian, a cutthroat eel, sea pens, a chanux (goosefish), shrimp, sponges, and a number of sea stars predating upon bamboo corals.


 


 

 

 

A U.S. Coast Guard rescue swimmer is deployed to the bow of NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer during a training drill off the coast of Oahu, Hawaii.

A U.S. Coast Guard rescue swimmer is deployed to the bow of NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer during a training drill off the coast of Oahu, Hawaii. Click image for credit and larger view.

A U.S. Coast Guard rescue swimmer prepares to deploy to the bow of NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer during a training drill off the coast of Oahu, Hawaii. Image courtesy of Deep-Sea Symphony: Exploring the Musicians Seamounts expedition, Caitlin Bailey.

A U.S. Coast Guard rescue swimmer prepares to deploy to the bow of NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer during a training drill off the coast of Oahu, Hawaii. Click image for credit and larger view.

 


NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer
September 6, 2017

Underway!

NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer departed Ford Island in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, this morning to begin the Deep-Sea Symphony: Exploring the Musicians Seamounts expedition. Once outside of the harbor, the ship made a short transit to the waters off Honolulu, Hawaii, to assist the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) with a helicopter training drill. The mission team watched on as two USCG helicopters took turns deploying a rescue swimmer and rescue basket down to the ship’s bow. The drills were a success and the Okeanos team is continuing to transit north of Oahu towards the first dive site at the “Tropic of Cancer” seamount. The team is looking forward to the expedition and to learning more about this largely unexplored area that lies just outside the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone. While small portions of the Musicians Seamount group have been previously mapped during transits, dedicated mapping operations began during the August 2017 Okeanos Explorer telepresence mapping expedition. Our current expedition will continue mapping efforts during overnight transits and we will conduct the first exploration using remotely operated vehicles to increase understanding of this fascinating region. Be sure to tune in to see what we discover!


 


 

 

 

 

 

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