Gulf of Alaska Seamounts 2019

Background Information

The essays below will help you to understand the goals and objectives of the mission and provide additional context and information about the places being explored and the science, tools, and technologies being used.

  • Mission Plan

    By Katrin Iken and Russ Hopcroft

    Bathymetric map of the Gulf of Alaska, showing its deep basin with seamount chains. Grey – land, Green – continental shelf, Yellow – continental slope, Orange – deep basin.

    Learn more about plans to explore the Gulf of Alaska, which is part of the northern-most portion of the north Pacific and is a productive system well known for its iconic species and extensive fisheries that supply US and international markets with high-quality seafood. The continental shelf system of the Gulf of Alaska is relatively well known, yet much less is understood about the deep portion of the Gulf.

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  • Seabirds of the Northern Gulf of Alaska

    By Kathy Kuletz

    Sabine's gull, like this immature bird and adults during the non-breeding season, are highly pelagic in both the Pacific and Atlantic, but they breed in the Arctic tundra.

    In the northern Gulf of Alaska, as with all sub-arctic and Arctic regions, seabird communities and abundance change dramatically with the seasons. During spring, many birds migrate through and species richness is highest, with up to 56 species recorded during offshore surveys.

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  • Gelatinous Zooplankton – the Elusive Drifters of the Deep

    By Russ Hopcroft

    Beroe abyssicola is a comb jelly, which is a voracious predator in the deeper waters of the Gulf of Alaska up to the Arctic.

    Some areas of the Gulf of Alaska have been studied for zooplankton, the small water column drifting organisms that make up an essential part of the marine food chain, for decades. However, collections have generally been confined to the continental shelf area of the Gulf of Alaska (200 meters, maximum depth).

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  • The Seamount Gardens of the Deep Sea

    By Katrin Iken

    A trawl catch of the rich benthic fauna on the Arctic shelf at 50 meters depth showing lots of brittle stars, feather stars, and sea cucumbers.

    The benthic – or seafloor - organisms – are the element that have garnered probably among the most scientific interest and curiosity about seamounts. The typically hard substrate of the seamount tops support a unique and highly diverse fauna.

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  • The Small and Mighty – Microbial Life

    By R. Eric Collins

    This is a microscopic photo of a bacterium called Pelagibacter ubique, the most common bacterium in the ocean!
    This is a microscopic photo of a bacterium called Marinomonas arctica, which can grow inside of Arctic sea ice at subzero temperatures!

    As best we can tell, life on Earth originated in the oceans and evolved as microscopic bacteria, algae, protists, and viruses. Billions of years later, microbes are still running the show in the world’s seas.

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