Dive 04: Unnamed Seamount ("Athena")
March 12, 2017
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Dive 04: Gutsy Goosefish

This angler fish, or goosefish, was seen perched on a rock while we were exploring an unnamed seamount in the Tokelau Seamount Chain at a depth of ~1,200 meters. This was our second dive within the Phoenix Islands Protected Area. Video courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, Discovering the Deep: Exploring Remote Pacific MPAs. Download (mp4, 26.3 MB).

This dive began at 1,228 meters depth, at an unnamed seamount in the Tokelau Seamount Chain. It was the second dive within the Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA). As with the previous dive at Carondelet Reef, there was a fair amount of particulate organic matter in the water column on the descent. At the base of the slope, there was a weak current to the southeast, and the dominant substrate was steep exposed manganese-coated rock with patches of sediment. At the start of the dive, scientists observed xenophyophores on the sediment surface, several octocorals attached to rocks, and sea pens within the sediment. Heading upslope, coral species spotted included a bamboo whip, at least two different primnoids, and other octocorals. Numerous colonies of a suspected precious coral, Pleurocorallium cf. kishinouye, were observed on rock slabs. Several species of fish were observed along the steep slope: cutthroat eels, cusk-eels, brotulas, snaketooth fish, and a goosefish. Coral and sponge associates included chirostylids, ophiuroids, crinoids, amphipods, polychaetes, and shrimp. Other invertebrates observed on the steep slope included sea stars, long-spined urchins, echinothurids, sponges, stalked crinoids, and anemones. Pelagic organisms were more abundant on this dive and included ctenophores, siphonophores, black medusae, pelagic holothurians, two squids (one holding on to another squid), and midwater fish. Scientists also collected a rock with one colony of an abundant white coral and a snip from the purple coral. The south approach to the seamount's summit revealed large pavement blocks that were fragmented with little sediment drape. Scientists turned off the remotely operated vehicle lights to see if that revealed any fish. The light test was unsuccessful, but the scientists did see tripodfish, blind lobster, isopods, cusk-eels, cutthroat eels, octocoral with associates, and an urchin with puffy spines towards the end of the dive. Notable observations on the dive included crabs gripping sponges, hydroids, or anemones, and an octocoral with possible squid egg cases (at least three colonies observed). Scientists observed several taxa similar to the dive on Swains Island. Several fish observations represent new records for Kiribati and the dive overall enabled increased understanding of deep-sea corals, sponges, and fishes found within PIPA.