May 19, 2020: Rebroadcast

On May 19, at 10 a.m. EDT, we will rebroadcast the dive from April 24, 2014. Be sure to join us!

Gulf of Mexico 2014

Leg 3 Dive 12: Tar Lilies

Date: April 24, 2014

Location: 26° 36.951' N ; 091° 06.538' W

Maximum Dive Depth: 1,930 meters (6,330 feet)

On April 24, 2014, during the twelfth dive of the final leg of the Gulf of Mexico 2014 expedition, the team set out to investigate an approximately 60 meter-long sidescan acoustic target, which was suspected to be a shipwreck. The remotely operated vehicle (ROV) reached the seafloor at approximately 1,930 meters (6,330 feet) depth and made its way across a flat, sedimented surface towards the target. Within minutes of reaching the site, however, instead of finding a ship’s hull or wreck debris, the ROV’s lights revealed massive rocks splayed out over the seabed in the shape of an enormous flower. The team had found something quite unexpected…

Discussion between the shore and the ship zeroed-in on the likeliest explanation – that this feature was a flower-like extrusion of asphalt at the seafloor – the first of its kind documented in this area of the Gulf of Mexico. Each “petal” of the tar extrusion or “flower” was curved and had internal layering, a result of de-volatilization of the asphalt rising from the sub-seafloor upon its contact with seawater. Eventually dubbed by the team as the “tar lilies,” these unique features boasted not just interesting geology, but also provided habitat for an array of marine life, including fly trap anemones, unidentified sponges, goose neck barnacles, octocorals, sea pens, squat lobsters, and bamboo corals, as well as a few chemosynthetic fauna, including tube worms, bacterial mats, and Alvinocaris shrimp.