2017 Laulima O Ka Moana: Exploring Deep Monument Waters Around Johnston Atoll

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.

  • Expedition Summary

    July 7 – August 2, 2017  

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

    The 2017 Laulima O Ka Moana: Exploring Deep Monument Waters Around Johnston Atoll expedition was a two-part, 27-day telepresence-enabled expedition. The first part was four days of shakedown operations following the ship’s drydock period and the second part was an expedition to collect critical baseline information about unknown and poorly known deepwater areas in the Johnston Atoll Unit of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument. The goal of the expedition was to use remotely operated vehicle 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 below.

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  • Interning on NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer

    August 1, 2017  |  By Nikola Rodriguez

    Expedition science leads, Dr. Chris Kelley and Dr. Chris Mah, and NOAA EPP Intern, Nikola Rodriguez, pose for a picture while standing by waiting to receive word that the ROV is secured on deck and it is safe for them to go retrieve samples collected during the day’s ROV dive.

    When I first arrived on the Okeanos Explorer, people would ask, “Are you the ‘intern’?” I would politely say, “yes” and smile. Followed by, “What are you going to be doing on the ship?” Honestly, I was not sure what exactly I would be doing.

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  • Enigmatic Invertebrates: The Dandelion Animal

    July 30, 2017  |  By Scott France

    This dandelion siphonophore is the first we observed on this expedition.
    A notable cnidarian observed during Dive 14 of this expedition was a red-orange benthic “dandelion” siphonophore seen on the underside of a large basalt boulder.

    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.”

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  • The ROV Went Dark – What Happened?

    July 28, 2017  |  By David Casagrande

    The first few loops of wire are laid out.

    On Tuesday, July 18, 2017, at 1:13 PM, while diving on an unnamed seamount near Johnston Atoll approximately 800 miles west of Hawaii, remotely operated vehicle (ROV) Deep Discoverer encountered a problem. The type of problem which causes the ROV Navigator to report to the Bridge that, “The vehicle has lost power and communications—bail out, bearing 225, speed 0.5 knots.” 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.

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  • Reflections on Water Column Animals

    July 26, 2017  |  By Dhugal Lindsay

    The rounded, pigmented guts of these salps are clearly visible in the individual salps in this chain.
    This ctenophore, or comb jelly, belongs to the genus Thalassocalyce.

    The central part of the North Pacific Ocean, the North Pacific Gyre, contains a vast expanse of water with low food concentrations. This is because the area is capped by a warm, relatively still layer of surface water. This warm-water lens stops nutrients from being upwelled into the sunlit zone and providing nourishment for the phyto- (plant) plankton.

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  • Life Aboard NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer

    July 24, 2017  |  By Pedro Lebron

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

    Being a crewmember on America’s Ship for Ocean Exploration, NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer, has its challenges. Not counting the obvious (missing family, friends, and all of the activities back home), living onboard a ship—and keeping it livable—takes a lot of effort, knowledge, and teamwork.

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  • The Mysteries of Pedicellariae: Unknowns and Deadly Velcro

    July 23, 2017  |  By Chris Mah

    Brisingid sea star using pedicellariae-covered spines.

    Probably one of the best things about working with NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer has been the ability to observe deep-sea sea star species alive and in their natural habitat. This permits us to observe how anatomical features function when the animal is interacting with its surroundings. Unlike features such as teeth on vertebrates, which humans actually possess, it can be difficult—if not impossible—to infer the function of such a structure without seeing it used by a living animal.

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  • The Three “Ws”, A Ship at Sea, and ECDIS

    July 21, 2017  |  By ENS Brianna Pacheco

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

    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. Time and place – they are always important ashore, but even more so when one is sailing the vast expanse of an endless, featureless ocean.

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  • Safety Aboard NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer

    July 20, 2017  |  By AB James Scott

    AB James Scott secures remotely operated vehicle Seirios on the deck of NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer.

    Safety onboard a sea-going vessel is crucial at all times, both in and out of port. Although the possibility of being lost at sea is not likely when tied to the pier, the machinery never stops moving. With every expedition, the personnel of NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer are reminded of the strength of the ever-changing seas. The dangers surrounding our operations either openly present themselves or lurk in the shadows. As a crewmember onboard, this ship is our home and the people are our family. We take care of ourselves and others and we speak up to prevent accidents. Safety is everyone’s responsibility, from the captain to the newest recruit.

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  • A Day in the Life of the Chief Steward

    July 19, 2017  |  By Michael A. Sapien

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

    It’s 5 AM, and I literally rolled out of bed this morning, reaching for the snooze button. It’s a little choppy outside, but we will dive today for sure. That means there will be plenty of hungry bodies ready to get off to an early start this morning. We have just the thing to arouse their senses: a full sheet pan of applewood smoked bacon. Ahhh... the aroma seems to slowly crawl up each deck, gently lifting its passerby into a fully outstretched breath of “oooh yeah!”

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  • A Tale of Two Sponges

    July 18, 2017  |  By Christopher Kelley

    Tubular sponge collected during Dive 06 of the current expedition.
    Close-up of the tubular sponge showing the retracted polyps of a commensal cnidarian (yellow spots in branches).

    While watching the NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer live video stream, have you wondered about the difficulty of determining any of the species? Many deep-sea animals are very difficult to identify without having collected at least one specimen, preferably more, that can be examined carefully in the lab.

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  • Getting to Know You: Annie White

    July 17, 2017  |  By Annie White

    Hard at work, clipping video.

    Not long ago, I’d never imagined running off to the most remote parts of the globe for months on end, sailing the open ocean, and making videos about bizarre sea creatures. But that’s exactly what I spend my days doing aboard NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer. As a member of the onboard video team, I spend a lot of my time at sea wrestling with misbehaving computers, but I also get to help discover brand new species, operate giant underwater robots, and explore places that humans have never been before. Pretty much a dream come true.

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  • Getting to Know You: Dave Wright

    July 15, 2017  |  By Dave Wright

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

    There are only two members of the remotely operated vehicle team without a degree. I am one of them; my boss is the other. Forty-odd years ago, I was pushing a fully loaded wheelbarrow out of the barn on my way to the pile, when it occurred to me that ‘Equine Waste Products Management Specialist’ was a no-growth career path.

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  • Ahoy Captain Johnson!

    July 12, 2017  |  By Debi Blaney

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

    Eric Johnson is the brand new Commanding Officer of NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer and just embarked on his first expedition as her Captain, heading to the Johnston Atoll Unit of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument. Commandeering a ship of this size and ensuring successful exploration of the deep sea is no small task! 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.

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  • Johnston Atoll Nearshore Ecosystems

    July 10, 2017  |  By Heidi Hirsh

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

    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.

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  • Ship Shakedown

    July 9, 2017  |  By Kelley Elliott, Mashkoor Malik, and Dan Rogers

    Ship systems and equipment were off for several weeks during the dry dock period. Part of the shakedown period includes literally turning on the power and rebooting all of the onboard computer systems to ensure the software is working and up-to-date.

    NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer recently completed a dry dock period where she received routine maintenance, underwent repairs, and received upgrades to various systems. After this period, the next step in vessel operations is to “shake down” the system by operating and running the ship to test and ensure that the completed maintenance, repairs and upgrades are working properly.

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  • What Happens During Dry Dock?

    July 7, 2017  |  By ENS Bryan Brasher

    NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer in dry dock at Barbers Point on the Island of O‘ahu in Hawaii.

    On July 7, NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer started the first part of the 2017 Laulima O Ka Moana expedition, beginning with four days of “shakedown” operations to run and test systems following dry dock repairs. Read this log to learn more about what happened during the dry dock operations.

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