By Kasey Cantwell, Expedition Coordinator - NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research
September 9, 2017
Sir Arthur C. Clarke once wrote, “How inappropriate to call this planet Earth when it is quite clearly Ocean.” The ocean covers 70 percent of the planet and produces more than half of the oxygen in the atmosphere. We rely on the ocean for food, transportation, and recreation. The ocean touches all of our lives in ways that we may not always realize. However, much of the ocean remains unexplored.
For the last three years, NOAA has explored some of the most remote parts of our nation’s marine national monuments and marine protected areas as part of the Campaign to Address the Pacific monument Science, Technology, and Ocean NEeds (CAPSTONE). We’ve discovered new hydrothermal vents, high-density coral and sponge communities, potentially new species, and historic maritime heritage sites. We’ve mapped new seamounts and revealed new geologic features. It’s been an exciting and unprecedented three years of ocean exploration.
Marine animals, such as fish and corals, do not recognize geopolitical boundaries of the world’s ocean. As one of the closest seamount groups to the Hawaiian Islands, the Musicians may serve as refuge for transient fish populations that Hawaii relies upon, provide additional habitat, and serve as a pool of genetic diversity for deep-sea coral populations known from the deep waters around the Hawaiian Islands.
Beyond characterizing the benthic habitats, this cruise provides us the opportunity to explore the water column, one of the least understood biomes on the planet. On this expedition, we’ll also conduct our first ever full-day water column dives!
Additionally, the Musicians Seamounts offer a unique opportunity to expand our geological knowledge of fracture zones, hotspot volcanism, and how these features interact in areas where they coexist. The Musicians sit at the northernmost edge of the Prime Crust Zone, an area of the Pacific with the highest levels of commercially valuable deep-sea mineral deposits. However, there is limited data about this region, and expanding on this data set may better inform models of manganese crust accretion.
Due to the limited geological knowledge and data in the region, we will target rock samples with manganese encrustation and samples that will give scientists the opportunity to learn more about the age of the diversity of features located in the region.