Deep-Sea Symphony: Exploring the Musicians Seamounts

Expedition Summary

NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer
August 8 - 31, 2017
September 6 - 30, 2017

Infographic summarizing accomplishments from the Deep-Sea Symphony: Exploring the Musicians Seamounts expedition.

Infographic summarizing accomplishments from the Deep-Sea Symphony: Exploring the Musicians Seamounts expedition. Image courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, Deep-Sea Symphony: Exploring the Musicians Seamounts. Download infographic (pdf, 1.3 MB).

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...

Time-lapse video of NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer making her way into port in Honolulu, Hawaii, and docking at Ford Island, Pearl Harbor. Her return to Pearl Harbor marked not only the end of the Deep-Sea Symphony: Exploring the Musicians Seamounts expedition, but also the three-year Campaign to Address the 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. Video courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, Deep-Sea Symphony: Exploring the Musicians Seamounts. Download larger version (mp4, 15 MB).

Summary Accomplishments

The Deep-Sea Symphony: Exploring the Musicians Seamounts expedition was a 49-day telepresence-enabled, two-part expedition, to collect critical baseline information about unknown and poorly known deepwater areas of the Musicians Seamounts that lie just outside the U.S. EEZ. 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. Download a PDF (3.6 MB) of this summary.

Overview map showing seafloor bathymetry and ROV dives completed during the Deep-Sea Symphony: Exploring the Musicians Seamounts expedition.

Overview map showing seafloor bathymetry and ROV dives completed during the Deep-Sea Symphony: Exploring the Musicians Seamounts expedition. Image courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, Deep-Sea Symphony: Exploring the Musicians Seamounts. Download map (jpg, 3.1 MB).

Conducted 22 ROV dives

ranging in depth from 290 to 3,854 meters (951 to 12,644 feet) to learn more about remote areas of the Musicians Seamounts. Operations focused on characterizing the morphology and geologic history of seafloor features and surveying midwater and benthic habitats including ridges, bottomfish and precious coral habitats, and the site of the USS Baltimore. Highlights from the dives include:

  • Documented 18 high-density deep-sea coral and sponge communities, the highest number observed during CAPSTONE, raising interesting questions for future studies.
  • Documented the presence of precious corals for the first time in the Musicians Seamounts as well as an aggregation of old gold coral at Middle Bank, a site on the boundary of Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.
  • Collected 142 biological specimens with many likely being new or undescribed species.
  • Conducted a successful “Midwater Week” with unprecedented exploration of the water column, including four dives with midwater transects, to help characterize sites from the seafloor to the surface.
  • The final two ROV dives of this expedition aimed to locate and better understand WWII maritime heritage sites. Archaeology highlights included:
  • Investigated seven sonar anomalies at “Caiman” site in search of a lost Japanese submarine. Though no submarine was found, data collected will help refine prospecting techniques and confirmed that these targets were not maritime heritage sites.
  • Characterized the USS Baltimore by thoroughly documenting the wreck, inspecting the vessel degradation, and documenting the associated biological organisms.
  • Significant expedition dive observations included:
  • Third known observation of a large, yet undescribed, glass sponge (same species observed during the 2015 Hohonu Moana: Exploring Deep Waters off Hawai‘i expedition) at Schuman Seamount, that is only known to exist in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. This observation in the Musicians Seamounts suggests connectivity between the two regions, an important objective of this cruise.
  • Rare observation of a fangtooth fish (Anoplogaster sp.).
  • Several potential new species and novel observations of water column fauna.
  • A new species of ctenophore of a currently undescribed family.
Loading the player...

This giant species of sponge had only ever been seen twice before, both times in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. To see it here in the Musicians Seamounts at Schumann Seamount indicates a connection between the two regions. This particular sponge measured over four meters (12 feet) long. Video courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, Deep-Sea Symphony: Exploring the Musicians Seamounts. Download larger version (mp4, 33.7 MB).

Mapped more than 88,600 square kilometers of seafloor during the two-part expedition.

  • Mapped over 50 seamounts and ridges (many for the first time), mapped the Murray Fracture Zone, defined a ridge feature adjacent to Liszt seamount as part of the fracture zone, and used high resolution multibeam bathymetry to reveal flat-top guyots in areas where satellite altimetry predicted conical seamounts.
  • Multibeam data also revealed potential secondary volcanism on several features.
Loading the player...

Deep-sea coral and sponge communities are often hot spots of biodiversity, providing important habitat for life within deep ocean waters. As the ocean knows no boundaries, NOAA has a responsibility to study these communities both inside and outside of U.S. waters. The area explored in the Musicians Seamounts during the Deep-Sea Symphony expedition hosted some of the most-dense coral and sponge communities encountered throughout the entire CAPSTONE project in the Pacific. Video courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, Deep-Sea Symphony: Exploring the Musicians Seamounts. Download larger version (mp4, 121.4 MB).

Investigated a variety of different geological features

including seamounts and ridges. Highlights include:

  • Collected 31 rock samples for use in geochemical composition analysis and age-dating to increase the understanding of the formation of these features and hopefully provide insight into interactions of the hotspot and the Murray Fracture Zone.
  • ROV dives at Mozart and Liszt Seamounts, as well as mapping of the Murray Fracture Zone, provided valuable data about the seafloor geomorphology that will help scientists understand the interaction of hotspot volcanism and fracture zones in areas where they are co-located.

Collected more than 15 TB of data

, including multibeam, single beam, subbottom, ADCP, XBT, CTD and dissolved oxygen profiles, surface oceanographic and meteorological sensors, video, imagery, and associated dive and video products. All of the data from this expedition will be made publically available through national archives.

Loading the player...

During Dive 22 of the expedition, the sunken wreck of the iron hulled USS Baltimore, which was scuttled 73 years ago, was explored and described in detail. Video courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, Deep-Sea Symphony: Exploring the Musicians Seamounts. Download larger version (mp4, 58.7 MB).

Engaged with audiences around the world

, opening a window to the deep-sea in some of the planet’s most remote locations.

  • Shared the live video feeds of the expedition with the public worldwide via the Internet, receiving more than 387,000 views. Expedition content on the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research website received over 35,000 views.
  • 95 scientists from the United States, Japan, Russia, New Zealand, and Canada participated as members of the science team through telepresence.
  • Conducted the first shore-based Facebook Live event during “Midwater Week”—focused on answering questions about this largely unknown biome—with over 4,000 views.
  • Received news and media coverage from various media sources including the Daily Mail as well as others.
  • Conducted 16 live telepresence interactions with various groups engaging over 550 individuals including science and technical conferences, visitors at a science museum in Louisiana, partner agencies, and students at Exploration Command Centers (ECCs).
  • Received active participation from five ECCs located in NOAA Headquarters; Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute; University of Hawaii; Daniel K. Inouye Regional Center; and Pacific Marine Environmental Lab; which provided collaborative work environments for scientists to fully immerse in the expedition.
  • At the conclusion of this expedition, the CAPSTONE team participated in the Ocean Exploration Celebration, a public event co-hosted by NOAA, the Schmidt Ocean Institute, and the University of Hawaii. Over 600 members of the public participated in tours of the NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer and the R/V Falkor.