E/V Nautilus: 2019 Field Season

Expedition Overview

Nautilus 2019 Field Schedule Map

E/V Nautilus 2019 Field Schedule Map. Image courtesy of the Ocean Exploration Trust. Download image (jpg, 77 KB).

May 10 - October 18, 2019

From May to October, the Exploration Vessel (E/V) Nautilus, a 64-meter research vessel operated by the Ocean Exploration Trust, will be used to document and survey unexplored regions along the West Coast of the United States and in the Central Pacific, including American Samoa and U.S. Territorial Islands. This marks the Nautilus’ fifth year of exploration in the Eastern Pacific Ocean and is one of the most extensive seasons to date.

In addition to conducting scientific research, Nautilus expeditions are offered to explorers on shore via live video, audio, and data feeds from the field, and educators and students sail during expeditions to gain hands-on experience in ocean exploration, research, and communications.

Throughout the Nautilus field season, you can follow discoveries and interact with scientists live via the nautiluslive.org  website. Also, stay tuned to Facebook , Instagram at NautilusLive , and Twitter as @EVNautilus  for updates.

The NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research has a long-standing partnership with the Ocean Exploration Trust, providing support for the complementary ocean exploration program of Nautilus, which operates under a similar paradigm as NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer. By collaborating on mission plans, NOAA and the Ocean Exploration Trust are helping increase understanding of our largely unknown ocean, illustrate the value and importance of ocean exploration, and develop the next generation of ocean explorers.


Mission Summaries 

Osborn Bank: May 10 - 13, 2019

Osborn Bank

Remotely operated vehicle Hercules exploring. Image courtesy of the Ocean Exploration Trust. Download image (jpg, 36 KB).

The Osborn Bank expedition is a continuation of a multi-year collaborative expedition to collect high-resolution mapping data and characterize submerged shorelines in the California Borderland region. The focus of this year’s exploration continued in the Channel Islands off Southern California, where Nautilus has been working for the last four years.

Learn more about the expedition here .


California Mapping: May 15-22, 2019

During this cruise, scientists mapped a number of areas of the Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary and the Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary with the Nautilus multibeam sonar system. In addition to providing a better understanding of habitats in these regions in order to inform management and conservation, the high-resolution data collected during this cruise will inform dive planning later in the year as E/V Nautilus returns in October 2019 to visually survey some of these regions using remotely operated vehicles.

Learn more about the expedition here .


Gorda Ridge: May 24 - June 9, 2019

Apollo Vent Field

During the Gorda Ridge expedition, Hercules and Argus captured the first video images of the newly discovered Apollo vent field and revealed a penumbral landscape of dark, encrusted chimneys emitting shimmering vents of superheated water. Image courtesy of the Ocean Exploration Trust. Download image (jpg, 97 KB).

This expedition continued the multi-year SUBSEA (Systematic Underwater Biogeochemical Science and Exploration Analog) Research Program, a partnership between NASA, NOAA, Ocean Exploration Trust, and various academic research centers. This year, the SUBSEA team conducted research offshore of northern California and Oregon at Gorda Ridge, a section of mid-ocean ridge with seafloor hydrothermal activity that departs from the convention of black smoker hydrothermal systems, instead emitting clear fluids from the seafloor. Bringing together both ocean and space exploration teams aboard E/V Nautilus, SUBSEA blends ocean exploration with ocean worlds research to address knowledge gaps related to the exploration of our Solar System.

Learn more about the expedition here .


Pacific Seamounts: June 11-22, 2019

This mapping expedition focused on unmapped areas of the Pacific between San Francisco and Honolulu as E/V Nautilus operations move out into the Pacific Ocean between the Hawaiian Islands and Samoa. During transit, scientists used the ship’s multibeam echosounder and sub-bottom profiler to fill in gaps in seabed mapping coverage across the Pacific and collect data at a number of targeted seamounts in the vicinity of the Murray Fracture zone. In addition to the direct value gained supporting Nautilus cruises, the seabed mapping data and products on this expedition directly contribute to international mapping efforts, including the Seabed 2030 Project.

Learn more about the expedition here .


Palmyra Atoll, Kingman Reef, and Jarvis Island: June 22-July 13, 2019


You could almost hear the oohs and aahs as the team zoomed in on to this Iridigorgia coral. In the family Chrysogorgiidae, this coral has a whirl of polyps whose eight tentacles collect invertebrates and detritus from the water and grows up off the seafloor from a spiral curled stalk. Iridigorgia routinely grow 2-3 meters long, and one diagnostic tool for identifying species is the diameter between coils or curliness of the stalk. This coral was spotted by ROV Hercules on a dive exploring the Palmyra Moats - round features at the base of seamounts on the plateau near Palymra Atoll. Image courtesy of the Ocean Exploration Trust. Download image (jpg, 69 KB).

This expedition will focus on exploring deepwater features in the vicinity of Kingman Reef, Palmyra Atoll, and Jarvis Island within the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, which include some of the least-explored U.S. holdings in the Pacific Ocean. Expedition objectives will focus on characterizing the seafloor using bathymetric mapping systems where no previous mapping has been conducted or significant gaps exist. Visual seafloor characterization via remotely operated vehicle (ROV) dives will add to the knowledge of geological, biological, and oceanographic patterns and processes in the area. High-resolution seafloor mapping and characterization of vulnerable or sensitive habitats within these areas will greatly support management and conservation efforts in the area.

Learn more about the expedition here .


Search for the Samoan Clipper: July 15-21, 2019

Working with the Air Sea Heritage Foundation, the objective of this expedition is to locate, identify, and document the wreckage of Samoan Clipper, a Pan American Airways Sikorsky S-42B flying boat lost off the northwest coast of Tutuila, American Samoa, in January 1938. If successful, the resulting survey will characterize an archaeological site with major significance to aviation history, determine the final resting place of pioneering Captain Edwin C. Musick and his six-man crew, plus investigate the wreckage for evidence as to what lead to their fate.

Learn more about the expedition here .


National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa: July 23-August 5, 2019


This goosefish was surprised when Hercules “snuck up” on it. As the ROV moved closer, the fish bobbed its lure on the top of its head back and forth and used its fin to turn in circles. Image courtesy of the Ocean Exploration Trust. Download image (jpg, 90 KB).

The main objective of this expedition is to acquire baseline information on deep-sea and mesophotic habitat in American Samoa, with a special focus on the National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa. Within deep-sea habitats, seafloor geology and biological communities will be documented and potentially new species of deep-sea coral and subsamples of rocks will be collected to supplement the data collected during an expedition on NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer in 2017. In addition to seafloor mapping with multibeam sonar, a Lagrangian float will be deployed to capture high-resolution photographic images of the mesophotic zone and associated biota.

Learn more about the expedition here .


Baker and Howland Islands and Johnston Atoll: August 27-September 17, 2019

The main objective of this expedition is to collect deepwater baseline information to support science and management decisions in and around U.S. marine protected areas in the central Pacific. The team will conduct seafloor mapping and acquire video, biological, chemical, and geological samples in deep-sea portions of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument in order to build upon previous expeditions to the region and better understand marine habitats, biogeographic patterns, seafloor mineral distribution, and the geologic history of this important United States territory and the surrounding areas.


Clarion Clipperton Fracture Zone: September 19-October 2, 2019

This expedition will focus on mapping from Honolulu to San Francisco, as the E/V Nautilus’ operations move back east to the U.S. West Coast. The mapping route has been planned to the southeast from Honolulu to map a section in the Clarion Clipperton Fracture Zone that is adjacent to areas designated for seabed mining of polymetallic nodules under the International Seabed Authority. The remainder of the route is planned to collect bathymetry data in order to fill gaps in seabed mapping coverage across the Pacific. Additionally, while underway, the team will conduct the first deepwater test of a new mobile ROV system.


Greater Farallones and Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuaries: October 3-11, 2019

This is a joint project visiting two distinct national marine sanctuaries off the coast of California: Greater Farallones and Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuaries. Project goals In Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary include visiting unexplored deep-sea coral reefs, better defining the role of rocky substrate in the deep-ocean ecosystem, and increasing the understanding of types of habitats and the biodiversity within the sanctuary to effectively manage the area. In Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary, exploration will focus on deep canyon and slope habitats to continue an inventory of deep-sea species and habitat zonation, particularly hard substrate that may be suitable for deep-sea corals and sponges.


Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary: October 13-18, 2019

The main objectives of this expedition are to revisit and further characterize the “octopus garden ,” an unexplored, deepwater region of basaltic rocky reef that resides southeast of Davidson Seamount, within the borders of Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, that was found to host extensive aggregations of over 1,000 brooding female octopuses (Muusoctopus robustus). Recent research suggests that the relatively pristine habitats of Davidson Seamount may be necessary for maintaining healthy coastal populations in the sanctuary, and it is important to characterize the range of populations found on adjacent hard substrate habitat.


The partnership between the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research and the Ocean Exploration Trust has been an evolving one, tracing its roots back to 2000. NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer was developed alongside E/V Nautilus, allowing the sharing of telepresence technology to bring the wonder of ocean exploration from ship to shore. In addition to providing funding support for the Nautilus mission, the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research continues to work with the Ocean Exploration Trust to advance technology and reduce uncertainties in critical parts of our largely unexplored deep ocean.