2017 Laulima O Ka Moana

Mission Logs

Follow along as participants in the cruise provide updates and reflections on their experiences, the science, the technology, and other elements of the expedition.


The shipboard mission team of the 2017 Laulima O Ka Moana: Exploring Deep Monument Waters Around Johnston Atoll expedition.

Expedition Summary

The 2017 Laulima O Ka Moana: Exploring Deep Monument Waters Around Johnston Atoll expedition was a two-part 27-day telepresence-enabled expedition. The goal of the expedition was to use ROV dives and seafloor mapping operations to increase the understanding of the deep-sea ecosystems in this area to support science and management needs. Major accomplishments from this expedition are summarized here.

Interning on NOAA Ship <em>Okeanos Explorer</em>

August 1: Interning on NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer

As a NOAA Educational Partnership Program Scholarship receipt, Nikola Rodriguez joined the expedition for an immersive experience onboard the Okeanos that was much more than just interacting with previously collected video and mapping data — instead, she was actually helping to create the data.

This dandelion siphonophore is the first we observed on this expedition. Found at approximately 2,530 meters (8,300 feet) depth, we were able to see the feeding tentacles extended around the animal like a spider web as well as the pulsating nectophores, found just below and around the “float,” which helped to keep the central body suspended.

July 30: Enigmatic Invertebrates: The Dandelion Animal

One of the exciting parts of being involved in NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer expedition dives into the deep sea is the opportunity to see strange and unusual animals living in their natural habitat. Among the most unusual is the so-called “dandelion animal.”

The first few loops of wire are laid out.

July 28: The ROV Went Dark - What Happened?

On Tuesday, July 18, 2017, at 1:13 PM, remotely operated vehicle (ROV) Deep Discoverer encountered a problem. The type of problem which forces a “dead vehicle recovery,” ends a dive early, and cancels dives for the next two days. The following is an account of what happened, and how the problem was fixed.

This ctenophore, or comb jelly, belongs to the genus Thalassocalyce. Only one species is currently described and the present species is either a mature form of that species, Thalassocalyce inconstans, or it is a new deeper-living species. The white bands that occur in pairs are the gonads of the animal and their resemblance to eyes when the hemispherical, medusoid body is viewed from above lend it its common Japanese name of the 'mask jelly.'

July 26: Reflections on Water Column Animals

Several groups of zoo- (animal) plankton have evolved to excel at feeding on phytoplankton. It is no surprise that these are also the groups we seem to be finding in the highest abundances in the deep waters below these “ocean deserts.”

Active volcano we witnessed from the ship near Farallon de Pajaros.

July 24: Life Aboard NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer

We’ve encountered many different things throughout our travels, especially here in the Pacific Ocean, from sunken ships and aircraft to marine life that hasn’t been found anywhere else in the world.

Close-up view of pedicellariae in action.

July 23: The Mysteries of Pedicellariae: Unknowns and Deadly Velcro

It can be difficult—if not impossible—to infer the function of such a structure without seeing it used by a living animal. One such structure within sea stars is called a pedicellaria.

ENS Brianna Pacheco using the ship's Electronic Chart Display Information System (ECDIS) to navigate the ship.

July 21: The Three “Ws”, A Ship at Sea, and ECDIS

All have heard the three “Ws” (Where are we? Where are we going? When do we get there?). Perhaps it was a voice piping up from the back seat of the car while cruising on a road trip. For us, those onboard NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer, the scientists and crew will call these out over a two-way radio.

ROV recovery

July 20: Safety Aboard NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer

Safety onboard a sea-going vessel is crucial at all times, both in and out of port. With every expedition, the personnel of NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer are reminded of the strength of the ever-changing seas.

Chief Steward, Mike Sapien, hard at work, making sure the crew of 49 aboard NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer is well fed.

July 19: A Day in the Life of the Chief Steward

Learn about a typical day in the life of Chief Steward, Mike Sapien, who makes sure the crew aboard NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer are well fed.

Tubular sponge collected during Dive 06 of the current expedition.

July 18: A Tale of Two Sponges

Without samples to examine in the lab, many deep-sea animals are difficult to identify. Read the tale of two sponges that scientists were finally able to sample – and determine that their earlier identification guesses, made from observations or small pieces of the animals, were a bit off.

Annie White hard at work, clipping video.

July 17: Getting to Know You: Annie White

The biggest adventure of all has been sailing on NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer. This is my sixth expedition in just over a year and despite the challenges of eating, sleeping, and working on the ever-rolling seas, the ship now feels like home and my shipmates like family.

Another day at the office for Dave, piloting the ‘tour-bus for science.’

July 15: Getting to Know You: Dave Wright

I’ve learned a little bit about a lot of things on NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer. When I’m not in the pilot seat flying Deep Discoverer, I walk around, listen, look for places I can pull on an oar and keep our ship moving forward. I am happy with the path I chose.

CDR Eric Johnson oversees deployment of the CTD rosette during a shakedown cruise on NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer.

July 12: Ahoy Captain Johnson!

Eric Johnson is the brand new Commanding Officer of NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer and I had the honor of meeting Eric in person before he set sail and got to ask him about his journey to becoming the ship’s captain and what it takes to successfully command a NOAA vessel.

Chocolate chip sea cucumber (Holothuria sp.) at Johnston Atoll.

July 10: Johnston Atoll Nearshore Ecosystems

The team is excited that, during this expedition, they will explore much of the never-before-seen deep-sea habitats of Johnston Atoll, and we look forward to learning of new discoveries, creatures, and features. But before we dive to the deep depths, let’s take a look at what we know about the shallow water ecosystems around the atoll.

Kongsberg DP Technician, Michael Neal, provides training on use of the ship’s Dynamic Positioning system to NOAA Corps Officers ENS Anna Hallingstad and LT Aaron Colohon.

July 9: Ship Shakedown

The first four days of operations for this expedition are dedicated to shakedown operations. While every department will be testing and working on a variety of software and systems, there are a few key activities we spend the majority of this time addressing with ship operations.

During dry dock, the Okeanos Explorer was raised out of the water so that maintenance crews and engineers could work on the hull of the ship. The hull of the ship was cleaned and painted, with crews taking care not to damage any underwater sensors mounted on the hull. These sensors help map the ocean and also help locate the remotely operated vehicles using transducers for underwater acoustic positioning.

July 7: What Happens During Dry Dock?

During dry dock, the ship is lifted out of the water to enable thorough ship maintenance and repair work, including work on areas of the ship that are often not accessible or safe to work on while the ship is in the water.


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