[an error occurred while processing this directive] Discovering the Deep: Exploring Remote Pacific MPAs: Mission Logs: Expedition Summary: NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research
Discovering the Deep: Exploring Remote Pacific Marine Protected Areas

Expedition Summary

This expedition is part of the three-year Campaign to Address Pacific monument Science, Technology, and Ocean NEeds (CAPSTONE), an initiative to collect deepwater baseline information to support science and management decisions in and around U.S. marine protected areas in the central and western Pacific.

Loading the player...

Amanda Demopoulos, research ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey and co-science lead for the expedition, explains what makes the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument unique and why building a better understanding of its ecosystems is so important. Video courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, Discovering the Deep: Exploring Remote Pacific MPAs. Download (mp4, 79.6 MB).

Summary Accomplishments

Overview map showing seafloor bathymetry collected and ROV dives conducted during the Discovering the Deep: Exploring Remote Pacific MPAs expedition.

Overview map showing seafloor bathymetry collected and ROV dives conducted during the Discovering the Deep: Exploring Remote Pacific MPAs expedition. Image courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, Discovering the Deep: Exploring Remote Pacific MPAs Download image (jpg, 115 KB).

The Discovering the Deep: Exploring Remote Pacific Marine Protected Areas expedition was a 23-day telepresence-enabled expedition to collect critical baseline information about unknown and poorly known deepwater areas in the Howland and Baker Unit of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument (PRIMNM), American Samoa, the Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA), and the waters around New Zealand's Territory of Tokelau. The goal of the expedition was to use remotely operated vehicle (ROV) dives and seafloor mapping operations to increase the understanding of the deep-sea ecosystems in these areas to support management decisions. Major accomplishments from this expedition are summarized below.

Loading the player...

We know very little about the ecosystem dynamics of predation in the deep sea and how the food web actually fits together. By learning more about the kinds of deep-sea habitats and what predators these habitats can support, we are building knowledge needed to help managers make the right decisions to conserve resources for future generations. Video courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, Discovering the Deep: Exploring Remote Pacific MPAs. Download (mp4, 114.3 MB).

Conducted 19 ROV dives ranging in depth from 300 to 5,860 meters to survey the biologic and geologic variability of benthic habitats, including precious coral habitats, bottomfish fishery habitats, and manganese-encrusted habitats at seamounts.

  • Conducted all dives in never-before explored areas, with seven dives in the Howland and Baker Units of PRIMNM, eight dives in PIPA, two dives in Tokelau waters, and one dive at Swains Atoll in the National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa.
  • Surveyed for precious coral habitats and/or bottomfish/fishery habitats during five dives.
  • Observed more than 300 discrete taxa of organisms, including significant coral and sponge communities.
  • Collected 97 biological specimens (36 primary specimens and 61 associates), including deep-sea corals, sponges, squat lobsters, and brittle stars. These primary samples were of species that the scientific community could not identify and could be new species or new records for the region. The genetics of 36 specimens will be added to the Ocean Genome Legacy.
  • Observed more than 40 undescribed species, range extensions, new depth records, and/or new behavioral observations.

Mapped more than 30,100 square kilometers of the seafloor.

  • Focused mapping efforts on areas to support ROV dive site planning and to augment the limited area of the seafloor mapped to date.
Loading the player...

This incredible "living wall" of crinoids, or feather stars, was observed during Dive 17 to explore on a steep slope along the western side of an unnamed seamount within the Phoenix Islands Protected Area, at a depth of +700 meters. Video courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, Discovering the Deep: Exploring Remote Pacific MPAs. Download (mp4, 21.1 MB).

Investigated a variety of different geological features including seamounts, atolls, manganese-encrusted seafloor, a deep trough within PIPA, and the waters around islands.

  • Collected four rock samples for age dating of geologic features explored throughout the expedition and to increase the understanding of the formation of these features.
  • Explored for the first time a “hadal trough” – an area of more than 6,000 meters deep. Such deep troughs are atypical in this region of the ocean and this expedition provided much needed insight into this benthic anomaly.
Loading the player...

Sea pigs are deep-sea holothurians belonging to the family Elpidiidae. This sea pig was seen while exploring on March 24, during the deepest dive for the expedition, descending to 5,862 meters in a deep trough feature southwest of the Phoenix Islands. The anterior head end of the sea pig is on the right hand side and its back end is on the left. Video courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, Discovering the Deep: Exploring Remote Pacific MPAs. Download (mp4, 17.5 MB).

Collect more than 15 TB of data, including video and still imagery, multibeam sonar and single beam echo sounder measurements, subbottom profiles, current profiles, and CTD and dissolved oxygen measurements. All of the data from this expedition is publically available through national archives.

Engaged with the local community in Samoa, as well as audiences around the world.

  • Shared the live video feeds of the expedition with the public worldwide via the Internet, with the live video receiving more than 2.7 million views via multiple platforms including Facebook and YouTube.
  • Had participation from more than 48 scientists and students from the United States, Japan, Russia, and Trinidad and Tobago as members of the science team.
  • Provided tours of the Okeanos Explorer for nearly 100 people while the ship was at the port of Apia, Samoa. Tour participants included the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Program (SPREP), Ministry of Agriculture & Fisheries, and a delegation from Tokelau.
  • Received news and media coverage by various media sources including the New York Times, Deep Sea News, Samoa Observer, Newsweek, and ABC News.
  • Conducted four live telepresence interactions with various groups around the U.S.
Loading the player...

An overview of some of the fish seen on the 19 dives on this expedition, while exploring the Phoenix Islands Protected Area and the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument at depths ranging from 300 meters down to nearly 6,000 meters. Documenting fish at these varying depths can provide scientists with insights into the health and viability of an ecosystem. Video courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, Discovering the Deep: Exploring Remote Pacific MPAs. Download (mp4, 2.5 MB).