NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer: 2019 Expeditions Overview

2019 Expeditions Overview

October 2018 – September 2019

Map showing the 2019 operating areas  for NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer. A combined 179 days-at-sea will be conducted to map and explore deep-sea habitats across the North Atlantic Ocean. Image courtesy of NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research.

Map showing the 2019 operating areas for NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer. A combined 179 days-at-sea will be spent mapping and exploring deep-sea habitats across the North Atlantic Ocean. Image courtesy of NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research. Download larger version (jpg, 2.3 MB).

From October 2018 to September 2019, NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer will conduct multiple expeditions to map and explore poorly known deepwater areas across the North Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea. Multidisciplinary teams of scientists, technicians, and engineers will conduct undersea mapping and remotely operated vehicle (ROV) explorations of the geological, biological, oceanographic, and archaeological resources of these ocean areas, the majority of which remain largely unexplored.

Over the course of these expeditions, science teams will explore deep-sea areas of the U.S. Caribbean Sea, the Atlantic Continental Margin off the United States, Bermuda, Bahamas, the New England Seamounts, Azores, and the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. These expeditions will be part of the Atlantic Seafloor Partnership for Integrated Research and Exploration (ASPIRE) campaign, a major multi-year, multi-national collaborative field program focused on raising our collective knowledge of the North Atlantic Ocean in support of the Galway Statement on Atlantic Ocean Cooperation .

NOAA is proud to be partnering with Canada and the European Union to conduct work in support of the Galway Statement. The Galway Statement is an initiative between the U.S., Canada, and the European Union to advance knowledge of the Atlantic leading to improved ocean stewardship and understanding. Field operations will target largely unknown or poorly understood areas and will be designed to build on previous work in order to help fill knowledge gaps.

In addition to expeditions focused on mapping and ROV operations, 2019 operations will also include one expedition dedicated to technology demonstrations. This expedition will test novel approaches or emerging technologies for ocean science and exploration, and thereby strengthen the capabilities of NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer as a platform for technology advancement and testing.

Throughout the year, telepresence technology will allow you to follow discoveries via the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research website, putting the unexplored ocean directly into your hands. NOAA is currently seeking scientists and managers interested in actively participating during 2019 expeditions. For details on opportunities to get involved, please visit this page. If you are interested in providing input into expedition planning or participating as a scientist or student, please contact the Expeditions Science Advisor, Dr. Scott France, at france@louisiana.edu.

 

U.S. Southeastern Continental Margin, Bahamas, and Bermuda

Map showing the operating area of the 2018-2019 NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer expeditions focused on mapping and exploration of the U.S. Southeastern Continental Margin. Image courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research.

Map showing the operating area of the 2018-2019 NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer expeditions focused on mapping and exploration of the U.S. Southeastern Continental Margin. Image courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research. Download larger version (jpg, 2.1 MB).

From October 2018 to May 2019, NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer will be underway for three separate expeditions, for a combined 67 days-at-sea, focused on mapping and exploring deep waters off the U.S. Southeastern Continental Margin, the Blake Plateau, Bahamas, and Bermuda. This region has extensive yet poorly explored deep-sea coral habitats, as well as important maritime heritage resources, that are of high interest to federal agencies with research and management responsibilities. At-sea operations will include collecting ocean mapping data and exploring deep-sea coral and sponge habitats, gas seeps, chemosynthetic communities, continental slope canyons, geohazards, and submerged cultural resources. Mapping will also be completed in Bahamian waters in support of the U.S. Extended Continental Shelf Project (ECS) mapping effort, as well as to conduct sonar characterization of the ship’s EM302 multibeam system in the Naval Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation Center in partnership with the University of New Hampshire’s Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping.

Planned expedition dates and activities include:

  • October 2 - 24, 2018: Mapping operations starting in Davisville, Rhode Island, and ending in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Sonar acceptance tests and ECS mapping.
  • November 28 - December 16, 2018: Mapping operations starting in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and ending in Charleston, South Carolina.
  • May 5 - 30, 2019: Mapping and remotely operated vehicle operations starting in Charleston, South Carolina, and ending in St. George’s, Bermuda.

 

Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands

Map showing the operating area of the 2018 NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer expedition to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Map showing the operating area of the 2018 NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer expedition to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Image courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research. Download larger version (jpg, 2.1 MB).

In October through November 2018, NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer will conduct a 22-day expedition to collect critical baseline information about unknown and poorly understood deepwater areas surrounding Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The deep waters of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands contain a wide diversity of habitats and geological features, including seamounts, submarine canyons, valleys, troughs, and trenches, the vast majority of which have never been explored.

The expedition will include daytime ROV dives, overnight mapping operations, as well as continuous shore-side participation via telepresence technology. ROV dives will focus on exploring deep-sea coral and fish habitats, midwater habitats, submarine canyons, seamounts, trenches, and other unique geological features. Mapping operations will focus on seafloor and water column areas with little or no high-quality sonar data, as well as to support ROV operations and identify potential maritime heritage sites.

Planned expedition dates and activities include:

 

Azores and Mid-Atlantic Ridge

Map showing the operating area of the two 2019 expeditions aboard NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer focused on mapping and ROV exploration of the Azores and Mid-Atlantic Ridge.

Map showing the operating area of the two 2019 expeditions aboard NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer focused on mapping and ROV exploration of the Azores and Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Image courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research. Download larger version (jpg, 2.3 MB).

From June through July 2019, NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer will conduct a two-leg expedition for a combined 45 days-at-sea focused on conducting ROV and mapping operations in deep waters surrounding the Azores and the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. This is a key region in the North Central Atlantic due to its geographic and oceanographic setting, complex geological history, and potential importance for connectivity of deep-sea biological communities between the eastern and western Atlantic Ocean. These waters contain a wide diversity of habitats and geological features, including the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, the Azores Plateau, seamounts, ridges, hydrothermal vents, and deep fracture zones.

The expedition will include daytime ROV dives and mapping operations to best meet community needs and address regional data gaps. Exploration operations will leverage and complement ongoing work in the region, including those supported by the Azores as well as the European Union’s Horizon 2020 ATLAS  (a trans-Atlantic assessment and deep-water ecosystem-based spatial management plan for Europe) and SponGES  (Deep-sea Sponge Grounds Ecosystems of the North Atlantic, an integrated approach towards the preservation and sustainable exploitation of deep-sea sponge ecosystems) projects. Mapping operations will concentrate on seafloor and water column areas with little or no high-quality modern sonar data, support ROV operations, and identify potential maritime heritage sites.

Planned expedition dates and activities include:

  • June 5 - 27, 2019: Mapping operations starting in St. George’s, Bermuda, and ending in Ponta Delgada, Azores. Mapping focus will be on exploration of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.
  • July 3 - 24, 2019: Mapping and ROV operations starting and ending in Ponta Delgada, Azores.

 

New England Seamounts

Map showing the operating area of the 2019 expedition aboard NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer to the New England Seamounts.

Map showing the operating area of the 2019 expedition aboard NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer to the New England Seamounts. Image courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research. Download larger version (jpg, 2.4 MB).

From July through August 2019, NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer will be underway for a 24-day expedition focused on conducting ROV and mapping operations along the New England Seamount Chain. This is the longest seamount chain in the North Atlantic Ocean, stretching southeast from the edge of the Georges Bank off the coast of Massachusetts for more than 1,100 kilometers. The chain comprises more than 30 major volcanic peaks rising as much as 4,000 meters above the Sohm Abyssal Plain, but all summits are deeper than a kilometer below the surface. These seamounts host diverse geomorphology, including peaks, ridges, volcanic cones, plateaus, and flat-tops, which serve as biodiversity hotspots and host a higher abundance and diversity of fauna relative to the surrounding seafloor; yet they remain poorly explored.

The expedition will include daytime ROV dives, overnight mapping operations, as well as continuous shore-side participation via telepresence technology. ROV dives will focus on exploring deep-sea coral and sponge habitats, ridges, plateaus, midwater habitats, and other geological features. Activities will be planned to leverage and complement previous and planned work in the region, and mapping operations will concentrate on seafloor and water column areas with little or no high-quality sonar data, as well as to support ROV operations.

Planned expedition dates and activities include:

  • July 31 - August 23, 2019: Mapping and ROV operations starting in Ponta Delgada, Azores, and ending in Davisville, Rhode Island.

 

Technology Demonstrations off the Northeast U.S.

Map showing the operating area of the 2019 expedition aboard NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer to the New England Seamounts.

Map showing the general operating area of the 2019 technology demonstration expedition aboard NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer. The specific technologies and operating area for the expedition have not been finalized, but will be announced via the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration website once plans are refined. Image courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research. Download larger version (jpg, 2.3 MB).

In September 2019, NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer will conduct a nine-day expedition focused on field-testing emerging technologies in order to facilitate the advancement of technologies that further ocean exploration. The specific technologies that will be tested on this expedition have not yet been finalized and will be announced via the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research website once plans are refined.

Planned expedition dates and activities include:

  • September 4 - 12, 2019: Emerging technology demonstration expedition starting and ending in Davisville, Rhode Island.