From April 27 to May 19, 2017, NOAA and partners conducted a telepresence-enabled ocean exploration expedition on NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer to collect critical baseline information about unknown and poorly understood deepwater areas in the Jarvis Island, Kingman Reef, and Palmyra Atoll Units of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument; around the Marae Moana (Cook Islands Marine Park); and the high seas. During the expedition, our at-sea and shore-based science teams made some of the first deepwater scientific observations at these sites.
Below is a collection of images and videos of just some of the amazing creatures and unexpected behaviors we came across over the course of 23 days in the central Pacific.
On May 2, 2017, while exploring a ridge north of the Manihiki Plateau, the team encountered a deep-sea coral forest at a depth of about 2,240 meters. Several different vibrantly colored animals can be seen in this image, including an Anthomastus mushroom coral (center), precious pink coral (right), bamboo coral (left), and feather stars (crinoids).
On May 6, 2017, while exploring a seamount dubbed "Keli'ihananui," the team encountered this hydromedusa, Halicreatis, at a depth of about 1,200 meters. The ends of its tentacles are packed with nematocysts (stinging cells), which make them appear especially bright.
On May 5, 2017, while exploring a ridge off the southeast side of Jarvis Island, the team observed a group of brittle stars (ophiuroids) capture and eat a squid (Abralia sp.) that was swimming by. Participating scientists were shocked to see this behavior from brittle stars. This observation helps us understand more about the connection between the water column and the seafloor in this region.
On May 13, 2017, the team documented several instances of snails predating upon stalked crinoids (sea lilies) at a deep conical feature along the eastern slope of Kingman Reef. This unexpected interaction had only previously been recorded in the Paleozoic Era (541 to 252 million years ago). There were also multiple snails laying eggs on the crinoid stalks they were occupying. Behavioral observations like this are critical to helping us better understand life in the deep sea and are a great example of how little we know about our ocean.
On On May 7, 2017, while diving at "Whaley" seamount, the team documented a midwater hatchetfish swimming close to the seafloor. These fish have a very thin body and specialized light organs to help camouflage themselves while they hunt in the water column.
This smalltooth sand tiger shark was observed on May 13, 2017 while exploring a conical feature to the east of Kingman Reef in the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument. This was the third species of shark documented during the Mountains in the Deep: Exploring the Central Pacific Basin expedition and the largest individual.
Image courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, Mountains in the Deep: Exploring the Central Pacific Basin.
Download larger version (1.1 MB). | Watch video of the fishshark. | Download music-free b-roll.