Towards the end of dive 4, ROV Deep Discoverer came upon a unique geological feature that our team dubbed the “Octopus Grottoes.” Densely packed stony corals surrounded these cave-like structures and almost every one had its own octopus! Image courtesy of NOAA Okeanos Explorer Program, Our Deepwater Backyard: Exploring Atlantic Canyons and Seamounts 2014. Download larger version (jpg, 1.9 MB).
Okeanos Explorer EX1404L3
Dive 04 - East of Veatch Canyon. Video courtesy of NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research. Download (mp4, 41.2 MB)
Today, remotely operated vehicle Deep Discoverer (D2) investigated the habitats and geomorphology of a minor canyon east of Veatch Canyon. This minor canyon had the highest diversity of fish that we have seen so far and some of the highest densities of stony corals. D2 descended onto a boulder-strewn seafloor at a depth of approximately 1,270 meters and quickly encountered a steep wall with bamboo corals, black corals, cup corals, a variety of fish, and octopus. A couple hours into our dive, Okeanos Explorer experienced some technical difficulties that required that the vehicles ascend from the bottom to a safe distance above the seafloor. Our team took full advantage of this time to observe and document fauna in the water column, which included eels, salps, fish, ctenophores, shrimp, and jellyfish. Upon our return to the seafloor, D2 transited up a steep, chalky wall and encountered several species of fish, corals (including several small recruits), sponges, bivalves, and octopus. For both our geologists and biologists, the highlight of today’s dive was what our team dubbed the “octopus grottoes.” This unique linear arrangement of geologic features of unknown origin that looked like small caves was surrounded by a high density of scleractinian corals and had an octopus in almost every opening.