Northern Neighbors: Transboundary Exploration of Deepwater Communities

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.

  • Mission Summary

    By Martha Nizinski and Anna Metaxas

    Corals (mostly Anthothela) and sponges cover the wall of the unnamed minor canyon between Nygren and Heezen canyons.
    Red fish congregate around a large boulder colonized by the corals Anthothela (pink) and Paramuricea (yellow) as well as some anemones in Georges Canyon (Canada).

    On June 9, 2017, an international team of scientists aboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow left the dock at Naval Station, Newport, Rhode Island, en route to canyons off the coast of New England and Atlantic Canada, as well as the shallower shelf habitats in the northern Gulf of Maine.

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  • The End Becomes the Beginning

    June 21, 2017  |  By Martha Nizinski

    The motley science team of the Northern Neighbors: Transboundary Exploration of Deepwater Communities expedition at the end of a successful cruise.

    Multibeam mapping operations ended yesterday evening around 8 pm. This completes our data collection for this mission. As luck would have it, the fog had lifted, the sun came out, and the seas began to lay down. We should have a smooth ride back to Newport.

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  • More Than Just a Pretty Map

    June 20, 2017  |  By Matt Poti

    Example of a day’s dive plan map for a ROPOS survey, Western Jordan Basin, Gulf of Maine. “WP” means waypoint along a transect

    A typical dive plan for one of our surveys with the ROPOS remotely operated vehicle looks straightforward. It includes a series of waypoints, which are the coordinates used to navigate ROPOS along the intended path; information on the kinds of sampling that may occur during the survey; and a map of the waypoints overlaid on data depicting the depth of the seafloor in the survey area.

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  • We Got Caught Mapping

    June 19, 2017  |  By Martha Nizinski

    Rough seas and winds in the Gulf of Maine bring remotely operated vehicle operations to a halt.

    Last night our remotely operated vehicle (ROV) operations came to an end earlier than planned due to building seas caused by increasing wave height and strong winds. Out here, weather is a factor in everything we do. ROPOS has a weather window for operations—conditions when it is safe to deploy the ROV.

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  • Vive la Difference!

    June 18, 2017  |  By Dave Packer

    Deep-sea corals Primnoa (pinkish) and Paramuricea (yellow) on a steep wall in Western Jordan Basin, U.S. Gulf of Maine.
    Primnoa hanging from a large outcrop in Western Jordan Basin. Note redfish sitting among the coral, middle-right in image.

    Today we returned to U.S. waters in the northern Gulf of Maine to survey a site in western Jordan Basin. During today’s dive, we surveyed a number of high relief hard-bottom “bumps” that could be good coral habitat but that we hadn’t surveyed previously.

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  • A Squid’s Eye View of the Canyons

    June 18, 2017  |  By Liz Shea

    An enormous school of Illex squid surrounded the remotely operated vehicle during most of the dive in George’s Canyon, Canada.

    We have been seeing a lot of cephalopods on this cruise, and they never fail to elicit shouts of “squid!” from the control room as they are encountered and either jet away or pose for the camera.

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  • A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

    June 17, 2017  |  By Arieanna Balbar

    Arieanna Balbar assists with retrieving biological samples collected by ROPOS.

    Preparing for my voyage debut, I was unsure what to expect. I will be gaining my ‘ship time requirement’ as a graduate student at Dalhousie University while on the Henry B. Bigelow. My main duty on the ship is to aid in the processing of collected specimens and organize the dive logs and video.

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  • The Mud People

    June 16, 2017  |  By Marta Miatta

    Incubation of mud core samples post-dive in order to study feeding rates of benthic organisms.
    The ROPOS’ mechanical arm obtaining a sediment core in Corsair Canyon, Canada. Depth around 1,000 meters.

    I am Marta Miatta, a PhD student at Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada. I work with Dr. Paul Snelgrove and my project aims to clarify the processes occurring in deep-sea sediments and the role that different animals play. This is my very first oceanic expedition and I could not be more excited!

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  • Comrades and Carnivores

    June 15, 2017  |  By Joost Verhoeven

    The carnivorous sponge Chondrocladia grandis off Baffin Island, Canada. Note the inflated spheres and how its main body protrudes into the sediment.

    The main “attraction” during this scientific cruise onboard NOAA Ship Henry Bigelow is the beautiful and diverse deep-sea corals. While most people will be familiar with corals overall, the bottom habitats that make up the continental slope and the Gulf of Maine hold many other fascinating and lesser-known creatures. One of those is the enigmatic sea-sponge, Chondrocladia grandis.

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  • Two Days of Mud

    June 13,14, 2017  |  By Paul Snelgrove

    Large and very old bubblegum coral Paragorgia arborea on a rock, along with red crab and venus flytrap anemones, in Corsair Canyon.

    Returning to Corsair Canyon for the first time since our last visit in 2014 generated excitement among the science team that had been involved in our previous visit. The data we collected on that dive helped Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s decision to close Corsair Canyon to protect fragile resident corals that grow slowly and damage easily when disturbed by fishing gear.

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  • A Major Find in a Minor Canyon

    June 12, 2017  |  By Dave Packer

    A variety of deep-sea corals found on a ledge in an unnamed canyon between Heezen and Nygren Canyons, including the stony coral Lophelia pertusa, a large white gorgonian Paragorgia (bubblegum coral) and a small red Paragorgia (upper left), and the gorgonian Primnoa (orange, center).

    Day 3 of our ROPOS dive surveys went off without a hitch. This time, we dove on an unnamed “minor” canyon between Heezen and Nygren canyons in U.S. waters. Our intention was to survey the eastern wall of the canyon in an up and down, zig-zag pattern.

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  • It Was Worth the Wait

    June 11, 2017  |  By Dave Packer

    Unidentified black coral and white Anthothela (?) on a vertical wall in an unnamed “minor” canyon between Munson and Nygren Canyons.

    The remnants of the storm were still recognizable in the swells that we either endured or enjoyed as we slept overnight. We arrived at our first station, an area on the continental slope between Munson and Nygren canyons that contained many smaller, unnamed canyons. We were on stand-by mode as we waited for the sea state to further improve before launching. Short delays are part of the routine at sea, but it’s always better to wait and make sure both humans and equipment are safe and ready to go.

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  • High-tech Meets Low-tech

    June 10, 2017  |  By Cheryl Morrison

    The chop saw used to cut PVC tubes (in milk crate).

    One of the research objectives for this cruise is to collect samples of deep-sea corals and associated fauna for genetic connectivity and coral reproduction studies. Pilots of the high-tech ROPOS remotely operated vehicle can carefully snip the small coral fragments needed, and exact locations and environmental conditions can be recorded using the ROPOS data logging system. However, keeping a dozen or more small fragments of coral in discrete containers so that the other data can be referenced back requires some advanced planning and multiple trips to the hardware store!

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  • In Transit

    June 9, 2017  |  By Liz Shea

    Donning immersion suits during drills.

    After a 24-hour weather delay, we were happy to pull away from the dock in Newport, Rhode Island, and watch land recede into the distance. Although remnants of the storm were still being felt off shore, it was a beautiful morning to leave, and we were eager to go. The views of the bay, the bridges, the marinas, and mansions were stunning on the way out of Narraganset Bay.

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  • Sittin' on the Dock of the Bay, NOT Wasting Time

    June 8, 2017  |  By Dave Packer

    Chief Scientist Martha Nizinski discusses the cruise plan with Dave Packer while Co-chief Anna Metaxas takes care of last minute details in the Bigelow's dry lab.

    With a high pressure ridge over the Gulf of Maine today, and a gale warning with reported winds of 30-40 knots on the edge of the shelf, and seas at 14-18 feet, the Navy told us it would be wise to stay at the dock until Friday morning at 9 AM. The ROPOS can only be launched in seas of less than six feet and winds of less than 25 knots, and that's about the limit for concentrating on computers, too.

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  • Mobilization – Bigelow and ROPOS Prepare to Set Sail

    June 7, 2017  |  By Martha Nizinski

    The container destined for the 01 deck is lifted off the truck.
    The container destined for the 01 deck is lifted off the truck.

    Gray skies, drizzle, and cool temperatures did not dampen the enthusiasm of the crews of NOAA Ship Bigelow and the remotely operated vehicle ROPOS on Monday as we began mobilization for our transboundary cruise.

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