Deep-sea Canyons

Submarine canyons are steep-sided valleys cut into the sea floor of the continental slope, sometimes extending well onto the continental shelf. These canyons vary in size, shape, and morphological complexity; some were scoured by the flow of rivers during past low sea level periods, but most formed via other erosional processes, such as mud-slides, debris flows, and turbidity currents.

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Content essays

Background essays are written by explorers involved in a specific expedition in order to provide further background on specific topic areas associated with the expedition. Below are selected essays focused on deep-sea canyons.

Exploring Carolina Canyons: Submarine Canyons: Discovering Diversity in the Deep

The geological and morphological diversity of deep-sea canyons supports a wide variety of habitats. Some findings suggest that increased habitat diversity in canyons is responsible for enhancing benthic biodiversity and creating biomass hotspots. This essay discusses recent deep-sea canyon exploration all along the eastern U.S.

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Exploring Our Deepwater Backyard

“Deep below the smooth surface of the ocean hides a complex and dramatic topography, a still largely unexplored, underwater landscape as stunning as that seen by Lewis and Clark in the west.” This essay discusses the value of exploring the deep-sea canyons and seamounts of the eastern Atlantic.

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Let's Meet the Deep-sea Stars of the North Atlantic Canyons

“Where species occur is often a funny thing in biology, likely dependent on a number of factors that make those places suitable for a specific species.” Here, one of the world’s few specialists who work on the diversity and evolution of sea stars puts together what he knows from preserved specimens and decades of study with what has been recently found in the North Atlantic Canyons during explorations of the NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer.

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Mysteries of the Deep: Exploring Canyons along the Atlantic Margin

Submarine canyons are found throughout the world, representing complex seafloor features that link the upper continental shelf to the abyssal plain. They punctuate the margin by incising the shelf, creating scenic seascapes reminiscent of their terrestrial counterparts.

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Archaeology of the Atlantic Canyons

The mid-Atlantic outer continental shelf (OCS) intersects with some of the most historically significant waters in the United States and the historical and archaeological importance of the region is substantial.

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Submarine Canyon Evolution (the Geological Kind)

During the long summer days of July and August, NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer, remotely operated vehicle (ROV) Deep Discoverer (D2), and the cadre of scientists and technicians both aboard ship and ashore have had the rare opportunity to visit more than 10 submarine canyons along the U.S. Atlantic continental slope during the Northeast U.S. Canyons cruise.

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Atlantic Canyons Undersea Mapping 2012 Expeditions: Deepwater Canyons: Why We Care

Deepwater canyons are prominent features off the coast of the eastern United States, beginning at the edge of the continental shelf and with some extending down the continental slope to the abyssal plain.

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Mid-Atlantic Deepwater Canyons

Submarine canyons are dominant features of the outer continental shelf and slope of the US East coast from Cape Hatteras to the Gulf of Maine. There are 13 major canyons in the Middle Atlantic Bight (MAB) region, and minor canyons are abundant.

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This section provides direct access to selected lessons about deep-sea canyons developed by scientists and educators during Ocean Explorer field seasons. These lessons are geared toward students in Grades 5-12. Presented here as Web-based education materials, each lesson corresponds with a specific ocean exploration and can be supplemented with daily logs prepared by scientists and educators during each mission at sea. Additional lessons on canyons can be found using the Lesson Plan search feature.

Older lessons are aligned to the National Science Education Standards and newer lessons support the Next Generation Science Standards (and their associated Common Core Standards). All lessons from 2006 to the present also support the Ocean Literacy Essential Principles and Fundamental Concepts. Note: The web links provided in lessons are verified at the time of publication, but over time, some links may change or become obsolete.

Mapping Deep-Sea Habitats

Grades: 5-8

Bathymetric mapping of deep-sea habitats

Students will be able to create a two-dimensional topographic map given bathymetric survey data. Students will be able to create a three-dimensional model of landforms from a two-dimensional topographic map. Students will be able to interpret two- and three-dimensional topographic data. (See Hudson Canyon data on last 3 pages.)

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Wet Maps

Grades: 5-6

Bathymetric mapping

Students will explain how multibeam sonar is an example of advances in engineering that have extended the measurement, exploration, modeling, and computational capacity of scientific investigations. Students will analyze data from a simulated multibeam sonar system to create a three-dimensional map that shows ocean sea floor ridges and trenches, and explain how tectonic processes produce these features.

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Mapas múmedos

Grados: 5-6

Levantamiento batimétrico (Ciencias físicas/Ciencias de la Tierra)

Los estudiantes interpretarán y analizarán datos para explicar cómo se utiliza el sonar multihaz para identificar patrones en las estructuras de los fondos oceánicos, para construir mapas tridimensionales y para comprender cómo la tecnología de sonar multihaz amplía la capacidad de medición y exploración de la exploración oceánica actual.
Actividad práctica: construir mapas de las características del fondo marino

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An Underwater Sediment Slide?

Grades: 7-9

Sediment transport in an underwater canyon

Students will learn about the proximity of the Hudson Shelf Valley and the Hudson Canyon to one of the Nation’s most populated areas. Students will learn that from 1987 to 1992, two dumpsites in the Hudson Shelf Valley and Hudson Canyon, one 12 miles out to sea and one 106 miles out to sea, were used to dispose of sewage. Students will learn that canyons transport contaminants from nearshore areas to the deep sea.

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Mapping the Canyon (see page 23 in this document)

Grades: 9-12

Bathymetry of Hudson Canyon

Students will be able to compare and contrast a topographic map to a bathymetric map. Students will investigate the various ways in which bathymetric maps are made. Students will learn how to interpret a bathymetric map.

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Multitalented Underwater Robot

Grades: 9-12 (Engineering Design)

Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) Sentry

Students will understand how engineers approach complex real-world problems by breaking them down into smaller, more manageable problems. In this lesson, students will investigate how complex Sentry missions are planned.

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OceanAGE Careers Connections

The Ocean Careers to Inspire Another Generation of Explorers, or OceanAGE Careers webpage, invites students to learn about the talented people who explore our ocean planet. From underwater pilots to research scientists, these marine explorers provide students with first-hand knowledge of exciting careers through videotaped interviews and written profiles.

Explorers in Training

Meet NOAA's newest ocean explorers, who have trained on the Okeanos Explorer.

Related Expeditions

The above items are only a selection of canyons content on our website.

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