- Mission Plan
Three NOAA ships are directly involved with the Atlantic Canyons Undersea Mapping Expeditions. In addition to cruises on NOAA Ships Hassler, Bigelow, and Okeanos Explorer, a joint NOAA-Bureau of Ocean Energy Management expedition on the NOAA Ship Nancy Foster will conduct complementary work on deepwater canyons off Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia. Image courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research. Download larger version (jpg, 1.5 MB).
Between February and August 2012, a team of NOAA and external partners will conduct a mapping ‘blitz’ focused on deepwater canyons off the northeastern seaboard.
In preparation for this series of Atlantic Canyons Undersea Mapping Expeditions (ACUMEN), a team of NOAA and non-NOAA partners identified priority frontier areas along the continental shelf and slope. In total, five expeditions will gather baseline information to support science and management needs. The expeditions will highlight the complementary capabilities of three NOAA ships: Okeanos Explorer, Ferdinand R. Hassler, and Henry B. Bigelow.
Scientists and managers identified this five-canyon area as the second highest geographic priority. The map displays bathymetry collected during the first ACUMEN cruise. NOAA Ship Hassler will complete mapping of the area in June with high-resolution coverage of the canyon heads. Image courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research. Download image (jpg, 117 KB).
The shelf break and slope off the northeastern United States support a diversity of habitats including more than 70 canyons ranging from depths of ~100 meters to ~3,500 meters. Many scientists and managers believe the canyons provide a refuge for a variety of fauna including species of corals, fish, and other animals.
While some canyons have been studied previously, most are poorly known and are of high interest to federal and state agencies with research and management responsibilities.
NOAA priorities for ACUMEN include the following combination of science, education, outreach, and data management objectives:
- Initiate field efforts to support the NOAA Habitat Blueprint northeast regional initiative;
- Prioritize deepwater canyon targets with state and regional constituents;
- Support NOAA Integrated Ocean and Coastal Mapping efforts;
- Capitalize on the complementary capabilities of NOAA assets to produce an integrated, coherent dataset;
- Support the Mid-Atlantic Regional Council on the Ocean protection goal;
- Leverage the Sea Grant network to identify key constituents and education opportunities;
- Share data and products across platforms to guide and refine expedition plans in near real-time;
- Ground-truth mapping data and locate deep-sea coral and sponge communities;
- Provide a foundation of publicly accessible data and information products to spur further exploration, research, and management activities; and
- Engage a broad spectrum of the scientific community and public in NOAA activities.
Google Earth map showing general priorities and planned coverage areas for 2012 ACUMEN operations, overlaid on existing bathymetry acquired by NOAA Ships Nancy Foster and Okeanos Explorer. Planned areas for high resolution mapping by Hassler are overlaid in red. NOAA Ship Bigelow will use a towed camera system to ground-truth areas mapped by the other ships. A complementary joint NOAA-Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) project on the Nancy Foster is investigating canyons to the south of ACUMEN. Mid-Atlantic Regional Council on the Ocean priorities will be addressed during both the ACUMEN and NOAA-BOEM projects. (Actual mapping and sensor coverage achieved may differ from plan due to weather conditions, technical issues, and real-time data analysis and reprioritization.) Image courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research. Download image (jpg, 80 KB).
- February 14 – February 23: Okeanos Explorer (Davisville, RI – Charleston, SC)
- May 29 – June 13: Okeanos Explorer (Norfolk, VA – Davisville, RI)
- June 20 – June 28: Ferdinand R. Hassler (Baltimore, MD – Alexandria, VA)
- July 03 – July 18: Henry B. Bigelow with TowCam (Newport, RI – Newport, RI)
- July 28 – August 03: Okeanos Explorer (Morehead City, NC – Davisville, RI)
- August 15 – September 30: Nancy Foster (complementary NOAA-BOEM canyons project)
- Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research: Office of Ocean Exploration and Research
- National Ocean Service: Office of Coast Survey
- National Marine Fisheries Service: Northeast Fisheries Science Center and Office of Habitat Conservation
- Office of Marine and Aviation Operations: NOAA Ships Okeanos Explorer, Ferdinand R. Hassler, Henry B. Bigelow
- National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service: National Coastal Data Development Center
- Virginia Sea Grant
- Mid-Atlantic Regional Council on the Ocean: New York Department of State and Virginia Coastal Zone Management Program
- Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
- Cooperative Institute for the North Atlantic Region
Key partners in the NOAA-Bureau of Ocean Energy Management project include the U.S. Geological Survey, Continental Shelf Associates, University of North Carolina-Wilmington, and the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology.