Gulf of Mexico 2018







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Crewmembers of NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer on the bridge as NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer departs Pascagoula, MS.

Crewmembers of NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer on the bridge as the ship departs Pascagoula, Mississippi. Click image for credit and larger view.

The inner workings of ROV Deep Discoverer at sunrise.

The inner workings of remotely operated vehicle Deep Discoverer at sunrise. Click image for credit and larger view.

 


NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer
April 24, 2018

Repairs Complete – Departing Pascagoula and Transiting to the West Florida Escarpment

The officers and crew of NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer, particularly the ship’s engineering department, have gone above and beyond the call of duty over the last few days in order to rapidly complete necessary repairs to the port motor. The ship was cleared to sail in the morning and we departed Pascagoula, Mississippi, at 2 PM, CDT. While in transit to our next dive site in the northern end of the West Florida Escarpment in the De Soto Canyon region (146 nautical miles away), we will be conducting mapping operations. Our science team worked diligently to modify the expedition plan in a way that would still accomplish the overall objectives of the scientific community for the expedition. Given the distance to Key West, it was determined that moving east would provide us with the maximum number of dive opportunities for the remainder of the Gulf of Mexico 2018 expedition.


 


 

 

 

NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer at the dock in Pascagoula, MS, for necessary repairs to the port engine.

NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer at the dock in Pascagoula, Mississippi, for necessary repairs to the port engine. Click image for credit and larger view.

Image of NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer in port at night.

Image of NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer in port at night. Click image for credit and larger view.

 


NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer
April 22-23, 2018

Pascagoula for Engine Repairs

NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer arrived in Pascagoula, Mississippi, at approximately noon on April 22. Support staff was waiting at the pier. The ship’s engineering department worked late into the evening on repairing the port motor. The onboard science team evaluated different alternatives for the expedition schedule that would still achieve the overall objectives of the scientific community for the remainder of the expedition.

On April 23, the ship's engineers continued to work diligently with shore support on the port engine repairs—the cooling fans needed to be repaired. The team hopes to install both fans and run tests in the morning. If everything is in order, we hope to be underway tomorrow afternoon. The science team has taken the opportunity to process samples and data we have collected so far on this expedition. Additionally, the entire crew has taken advantage of being in port again to take inventory of supplies, catch up on correspondence, and evaluate various scenarios for departure.


 


 

 

 

Gulf of Mexico sunrise from NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer.

Gulf of Mexico sunrise from NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer. Click image for credit and larger view.

GFOE Engineer Dan Rogers and science co-lead Daniel Wagner during a live interaction with SEA Lab in Redondo Beach.

Global Foundation for Ocean Exploration Engineer Dan Rogers and science co-lead Daniel Wagner during a live interaction with SEA Lab in Redondo Beach. Click image for credit and larger view.

 


NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer
April 21, 2018

Transit to Pascagoula, Mississippi, for Motor Repairs

We conducted mapping operations throughout the day and overnight while in transit to Pascagoula, Mississippi, for necessary repairs to the port motor. The onboard team kept busy with multiple live interactions. These included an interaction with a professional development workshop at the National Aquarium in Baltimore, Maryland, hosted by mapping lead Mike White and science co-lead Adam Skarke, as well as a presentation to the SEA Lab in Redondo Beach, California, hosted by science co-lead Daniel Wagner, Global Foundation for Ocean Exploration and Research Engineer Dan Rogers, and expedition web coordinator Amy Bowman. The onboard video team performed the behind-the-scenes work that goes into these valuable outreach events.


 


 

 

 

Patches of chemosynthetic communities were occasionally observed throughout the dive, which included high densities of siboglinid tubeworms.

Patches of chemosynthetic communities were occasionally observed throughout the dive, which included high densities of siboglinid tubeworms. Click image for credit and larger view.

The sea cucumber Chiropdota heheva in a dense patch of Sclerolinum sp. siboglinid tubeworms.

The sea cucumber Chiropdota heheva in a dense patch of Sclerolinum sp. siboglinid tubeworms. Click image for credit and larger view.

Commonly observed in the deep Gulf of Mexico waters, this cusk eel (Cataetyx laticeps) with large eyes was seen laying in the soft sediment. This species feeds mainly on crustaceans and smaller fishes.

Commonly observed in the deep Gulf of Mexico waters, this cusk eel (Cataetyx laticeps) with large eyes was seen laying in the soft sediment. This species feeds mainly on crustaceans and smaller fishes. Click image for credit and larger view.

 


NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer
April 20, 2018

Dive 07: Mud Volcano in WR 488

Overnight mapping indicated that this previously unexplored mud volcano might contain some exposed hard substrate. Remotely operated vehicle Deep Discoverer (D2) reached the bottom on a heavily sedimented surface at a depth of 2240 meters (~7,350 feet). Several Lepidisis caryophylla bamboo corals were seen close to the landing spot, as was a plastic bag with anemones growing on it. D2 ascended a side of the mud volcano and proceeded east. Continuous fine-grained sediment covered the western side of the mound, interspersed with occasional patches (less than 15 square meters) of stained sediment and bacterial mats, suggesting discharge of subsurface fluids. A very small area (less than one square meter) of exposed asphalt flow with attached anemones was observed. Moving towards the center of the mud volcano, the seafloor bathymetry became more undulated. Occasional small mounds were observed, including one surveyed on the side of a depression that appeared to be recently formed.

The heavily sedimented slopes of the mud volcano had sparse colonies of bamboo coral (Lepidisis caryophylla). Other invertebrates recorded in the sediment included sea cucumbers (Benthodytes sp. and Chiropdota heheva), shrimp (Nematocarcinus ensifer, Mysidae, Hepomatus tener, and Cerataspis sp.), Venus fly-trap anemones (both Homethiidae and Actinoschyphidae), as well as a single sea pen (Anthopthilum sp.), and a tube-dwelling anemone (Ceriantharia). Fish observed included spiny eel (Polyacathonotus merretti), rattail (Coryphaenoides rudis), cutthroat eel (Synapobranchus sp.), halosaur (Aldrovandia sp.), tripod fish (Ipnops murrayi), cusk eel (Cataetyx laticeps), and nettastomatid eel (Venefica procera).

Throughout the central portion of the mud volcano, small patches with bacterial mats and chemosynthetic communities were observed, which included high densities of siboglinid tubeworms (Sclerolinum sp.), amphipods, shrimp (Escarpia sp.), and sea cucumbers (Chirodota heheva). In one on these patches was a low mound with white sediments on one side, suggesting fluidized mud flow from a hole on the top of the mound. Closer inspection revealed fecal casts in that hole, leading to uncertainty as to whether the small mound feature was geological or biological in origin. The northern rim of the mud volcano revealed a similar benthic environment to that previously observed. D2 moved to the outer edge of the mud volcano in search of hard substrate, but found none. With the exception of the asphalt flow, no rock or hard substrates were recorded on this dive.

Dr. Heather Olin’s Boston College Deep-Sea Biology class participated from shore at the Inner Space Center and asked the science team great questions, which prompted interesting discussions among the scientists. Additionally, the dive featured a live interaction with the Exploratorium. At the end of the dive, the ship was directed to transit to Pascagoula for necessary repairs to the port motor.


 


 

 

 

ROV Deep Discoverer observed a small (1.2 meter diameter) brine pool at 1,067 meters (3,500 feet) depth.

ROV Deep Discoverer observed a small (1.2 meter diameter) brine pool at 1,067 meters (3,500 feet) depth. Click image for credit and larger view.

Gorogonian octocoral (Paramuricea sp.) with associated squat lobster (Gastroptychus sp.) and brittle star. Specific species of squat lobsters and brittle stars are often associated with specific species of coral.

Gorogonian octocoral (Paramuricea sp.) with associated squat lobster (Gastroptychus sp.) and brittle star. Specific species of squat lobsters and brittle stars are often associated with specific species of coral. Click image for credit and larger view.

This distinctly purple octocoral (Clavularia rudis) was observed encrusting the upper end of a rock that tilted diagonally from the benthos.

This distinctly purple octocoral (Clavularia rudis) was observed encrusting the upper end of a rock that tilted diagonally from the benthos (seafloor). Click image for credit and larger view.

 


NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer
April 19, 2018

Dive 06: Hidalgo Basin

Dive 06 explored a mound feature at Hidalgo Basin. Remotely operated vehicle Deep Discoverer (D2) reached the seafloor at a depth of 1,095 meters (~3,592 feet) and immediately came upon chemosynthetic organisms, including bacterial mats and Bathymodiolus mussels. Across the northern portion of the mound, organisms encrusted the occasional carbonate rock outcrops. The bathymetry became more undulated, exhibiting large depressions and pockmarks with bacterial mats, exposed rock, and mussels–both dead and alive. D2 came upon a small brine pool, approximately 1.2 meters in diameter, in the bottom of one of these depressions. Dead mussel shells surrounded the pool and were also observed under the brine. A strip of blue-gray stained sediment led upslope from the pool, which may have once been a path of brine movement to the pool. Just beyond the brine pool, a large continuous bed of dead mussel shells was observed. Moving along the dive track, live mussels gradually became more prevalent, although they generally appeared to be smaller than the dead mussels. A small mound covered in bacteria was observed releasing shimmering subsurface fluids, indicating that the emitted fluids had a different density than seawater. Towards the end of the dive, the bottom transitioned to mud with occasional dead bivalve shells and periodic burrows.

Many bacterial mats and large patches of Bathymodiolus mussels (dead and alive) were observed during this dive. Alvinocaris shrimp were seen association with live mussels. Few individuals of the tubeworm Lamellibranchia were also recorded close to the mussel beds, as was the shrimp Heterocarpus sp., and the golden crab Chaceon fenneri. Away from chemosynthetic communities, the most commonly observed invertebrates were octocorals (Chrysogorgia sp., Acanthogorgia sp., Swiftia sp., and Anthomastus sp.), squat lobsters (Munidopsis sp., Gastroptychus sp., and Uroptychus sp.), golden crab (Chaceon fenneri), long-legged shrimp (Nematocarcinus ensifer), and an unidentified encrusting demosponge. Other invertebrates seen on the dive included stoloniferan octocorals (Clavularia rudis and an unidentified white species), gorgonian octocoral (Paramuricea sp.), black coral (Sibopathes macrospina), a single colony of primnoid coral (Narella pauciflora), various species of sea stars (Brisinga sp., Circeaster americanus, and Myxasteridae), holothurians (Enypniastes eximia and an unidentified species), and jellyfish (Poralia sp.). Fish observed during the dive included rattail (Coryphaenoides spp.), cutthroat eel (Synapobranchus sp.), an unidentified eel, goosefish (Sladenia shafersi), halosaur (Aldrovandia sp.), cusk eels (Monomitopus sp., Gadomus longfilis, Dicrolene sp., and an unidentified Ophidiidae), and an unidentified slickhead (Alepocephalidae).


 


 

 

 

One of the most commonly observed organisms on Dive 05 was this sea pen, an Umbellula species with four large polyps. This is a type of octocoral, a colonial animal with polyps that bear eight tentacles. The black spots in the center of each polyp are the mouths. The polyps are joined at the base, share a stomach, and there is an internal skeleton in the long rod that attaches to the bottom. This animal is specialized to live in soft sediments, and stays in place by inserting a bulb into the sediment.

One of the most commonly observed organisms on Dive 05 was this sea pen, an Umbellula species with four large polyps. This is a type of octocoral, a colonial animal with polyps that bear eight tentacles. The black spots in the center of each polyp are the mouths. The polyps are joined at the base, share a stomach, and there is an internal skeleton in the long rod that attaches to the bottom. This animal is specialized to live in soft sediments and stays in place by inserting a bulb into the sediment. Click image for credit and larger view.

This large (over 20 cm from arm tip to arm tip) brittle star (Ophiomusa lymeni) is very common on soft sediments in the Gulf of Mexico.

This large (over 20 centimeters from arm tip to arm tip) brittle star (Ophiomusa lymeni) is very common on soft sediments in the Gulf of Mexico. Click image for credit and larger view.

Another common inhabitant of soft sediments, this long-legged shrimp (Nematocarcinus ensifer) was found at a depth of ~2,770 meters (~9,090 feet).

Another common inhabitant of soft sediments, this long-legged shrimp (Nematocarcinus ensifer) was found at a depth of ~2,770 meters (~9,090 feet). Click image for credit and larger view.

video Watch video regarding planning for this dive.

 


NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer
April 18, 2018

Dive 05: North Wall of Perdido Canyon

Perdido Canyon was identified as a high priority for this expedition, as this remote area had never been surveyed with deep-sea submersibles by the scientific community. Interestingly, the dive site was located less than two nautical miles away from one of the largest and deepest oil rigs in the world! There were no high-resolution maps of the canyon, so we arrived on site early to collect mapping data. The purpose of Dive 05 was to survey the biology and geology of the north wall of Perdido Canyon in order to provide important baseline information about an unexplored deep-sea canyon. Submarine canyons are generally regarded as hotspots of abundance and biodiversity and are poorly surveyed in many remote locations like the western Gulf of Mexico.

Remotely operated vehicle (ROV) Deep Discoverer (D2) reached the seafloor at 2,786 meters (~9,140 feet) depth on a heavily sedimented, flat area with a sea pen (Umbellua sp.) near the landing spot. Beginning on the floor of Perdido Canyon, D2 then headed northwest up a sediment-covered mound oriented across the canyon axis, before moving north up the canyon wall. Fine-grained sediment cover characterized the lower portions of the canyon wall, which was interspersed with periodic excavation burrows. Linear ripples, with ripple crests oriented north-south, indicated that the prevailing currents move parallel to the canyon axis, the same direction the ROV pilots noticed currents during the dive. Higher portions of the canyon wall had limited fractured rock rubble and some outcrops of layered sedimentary rock. D2 briefly explored the top of the canyon wall, at a depth of 2,600 meters (~8,530 feet), and the canyon rim to the northwest.

The most commonly observed animals included sea pens (Umbellula sp.), holothurians (Benthodytes typica), glass sponges (Hyalonema sp.), shrimp (Nematocarcinus ensifer), a Hormetheiid anemone, an unidentified anemone, tubeworms, and tripod fishes (Bathypterois phenax and B. grallator). Star-shaped impressions on the sediment were commonly observed throughout the dive, some with a mudstar (Dytaster sp.) partially burrowed. Several species of fishes were observed, including grenadiers (Coryphaenoides mediterraneus), cusk eel (Bassogigas? sp.), and a fish with the best common name ever: bony-eared assfish (Acanthonus armatus). Other species observed during the dive included unidentified glass sponges, a brittle star (Ophiomusa lymeni), sea pens (Anthopthilum sp.), bryozoans, a holothurian (Benthothuria sp.), a tube-dwelling anemone (Ceriantharia), and a crab (Parapagurus sp.) with commensal cup corals.

D2 came off bottom to address a problem with the configuration of its tether with Serios. After the problem was addressed, there was insufficient time to return to the seafloor. This concluded the dive approximately 25 minutes early.


 


 

 

 

When this currently unidentified squid (possibly Discoteuthis sp.) was observed, it appeared to be curled in upon itself with its arms folded in what may be a defensive posture. What appears to be the beak is visible towards the lower part of the center of the animal and is slightly lighter in color than the body. The behavior seen in this picture was described as “probably the most bizarre squid I’ve ever seen” by our cephalopod expert, Mike Vecchione.

When this currently unidentified squid (possibly Discoteuthis sp.) was observed, it appeared to be curled in upon itself with its arms folded in what may be a defensive posture. What appears to be the beak is visible towards the lower part of the center of the animal and is slightly lighter in color than the body. The behavior seen in this picture was described as “probably the most bizarre squid I’ve ever seen” by our cephalopod expert, Mike Vecchione. Click image for credit and larger view.

This blind lobster (Acanthacaris caeca) was observed at ~675 meters (~2,215 feet). While we had gotten several images of these animals in burrows earlier in the dive, we found this lobster completely in the open close to the mound summit. The way it holds its pincers open is characteristic of this species.

This blind lobster (Acanthacaris caeca) was observed at ~675 meters (~2,215 feet). While we had gotten several images of these animals in burrows earlier in the dive, we found this lobster completely in the open close to the mound summit. The way it holds its pincers open is characteristic of this species. Click image for credit and larger view.

A goosefish (Lophiodes beroe) was observed at ~640 meters (~2,100 feet). These fish are fairly common at about 600 - 800 meters (~1,970 - 2,625 feet) deep. A type of anglerfish, the lures are visible in the center of its face.

A goosefish (Lophiodes beroe) was observed at ~640 meters (~2,100 feet). These fish are fairly common at about 600 - 800 meters (~1,970 - 2,625 feet) deep. A type of anglerfish, the lures are visible in the center of its face. Click image for credit and larger view.

video Watch video of the unidentified squid.

 


NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer
April 17, 2018

Dive 04: Unnamed mound in EB 1009

Dive 04 targeted an unnamed mound in East Breaks (EB) 1009, an area of the Gulf of Mexico that had never before been explored using deep-sea submersibles. The closest historical dive to the site was a single 2009 survey that autonomous underwater vehicle Sentry conducted over 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) to the north. Remotely operated vehicle Deep Discoverer (D2) reached the bottom on a heavily sedimented, flat area at ~895 meters (~2,935 feet) deep. Transiting west, D2 moved up the flank of a ridge covered with fine-grained sediment, abundant excavation burrows, and isolated sediment ripples suggesting current flow. At the upper extent of the ridge at ~850 meters (~2,790 feet), D2 moved upslope towards the peak of an adjacent mound. The sediment became coarser, sometimes with angular gravel to cobble sized clasts, until D2 came upon tan to brown, weathered sedimentary rocks free of sediment cover. Toward the top of the mound, fractured, blocky, dark gray to black rocks were observed that may have been fractured asphalt. At the summit, there was fully exposed sedimentary rock substrate. The dive ended with D2 moving west toward an adjacent peak.

Commonly observed animals included hake (Merluccius albidus), blind lobster (Acanthacaris caeca), shrimp (Cerataspis sp.), red crab (Chaceon quinquedens), and squat lobster (Galacantha spinosa). Other animals observed included several species of squid (including Ornituthis antillarum, Echinotheutis atlantica, and one as yet unidentified), cusk eels (Dicrolene sp.), rattails (Gadomus longfilis), cutthroat eels (Synapobranchus spp.), conger eels (Conger spp.), dragon fish (Manducus maderensis), cardinal fish (Epigonus sp.), grenadiers (Nezumia sp.), brotula (Diplacanthopoma sp.), sea urchin (Echinus sp.), giant isopod (Bathynomus giganteus), cup corals, as well as several species of sponges, sea cucumbers (holothurians), and comb jellies (ctenophores). There was a very grumpy looking goosefish (Lophiodes beroe) as well. Towards the end of the dive, on the rocky substrate, D2 recorded three small cnidarian colonies, including the stony coral Lophelia pertusa, a stolonieferan ocotcoral, and a corallimorph.


 


 

 

 

Male skate (Fenestraja sp.) with attached parasitic isopod seen towards the beginning of the dive.

Male skate (Fenestraja sp.) with attached parasitic isopod seen towards the beginning of the dive. Click image for credit and larger view.

This sea cucumber is able to swim freely in the water column. Several individuals were observed on this dive.

This sea cucumber is able to swim freely in the water column. Several individuals were observed on this dive. Click image for credit and larger view.

This dark ctenophore was observed with its tentacles fully extended at approximately 1,460 meters (~4,790 feet) deep.

This dark ctenophore was observed with its tentacles fully extended at approximately 1,460 meters (~4,790 feet) deep. Click image for credit and larger view.

 


NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer
April 16, 2018

Dive 03: Unnamed Ridge in GC973

Dive 03 targeted an unnamed ridge in an area of the Western Gulf of Mexico that had never before been explored using deep-sea submersibles. The dive was submitted by Dr. Heather Ollins of Boston College and her marine biology class, reviewed by the science community, and selected by participating scientists as a dive site for this expedition. The hope was to find hard substrate and associated biological communities. The closest historical dives to the site were four surveys by Human Occupied Vehicle Alvin in 2010, which were conducted over 35 kilometers (22 miles) to the east in Orca Basin.

The remotely operated vehicle (ROV) touched bottom in a flat, heavily sedimented area area at ~1,565 meters (~5,135 feet). One of the first observations was marine debris, a plastic bag with anemones growing on it. The ROV moved south-southeast up the flank of a ridge. The bottom composition was almost exclusively fine-grained sediment with bioturbation (low mounds with holes created by organisms) for the entirety of the dive. Lower portions of the ridge crest exhibited linear sediment ripples indicating persistent current movement approximately perpendicular to the ridge axis; however, the ROV pilot noted that the bottom currents were moving to the northwest. The ROV traveled to ridge crest then followed it to the west, reaching the ridge’s maximum elevation of ~1,460 meters (4,790 feet). There were very few rocks, one had an attached barnacle and another had an attached anemone. Some of the most commonly observed species included a brown tube-dwelling anemone (ceriantharian), shrimp (Nematocarcinus ensifer), several holothurians (including the free swimming Enypniastes eximia), halosaurs (Aldrovandia gracilis), and tripod fishes (Bathypterois phenax and Ipnops murrayi).

Other species observed included cusk eels (both Cataetyx laticeps and Dicrolene sp.), squat lobsters – one was observed on a sea star (Nymphaster arenatus), isopods, and the red crab (Chaceon quiquedens). Patches of Sargassum seaweed, some with bryozoans growing on them, were also observed. A single sea pen and a single sponge were also surveyed. Multiple ctenophores were observed in the water column just above the seafloor. A male skate (Fenestraja sp.) with attached parasitic isopod gave us a couple of opportunities to collect high-quality images. ROV Deep Discoverer finished the dive at the top of the ridge at ~1,457 meters (~4,780 feet) deep.


 


 

 

 

Wave behind ROV Seirios. With high wind and seas, the dive was canceled today.

Wave behind remotely operated vehicle Seirios. With high wind and seas, the dive was canceled today. Click image for credit and larger view.

 


NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer
April 15, 2018

Rough Weather Continues

The same weather system that caused yesterday’s dive to be canceled continued to interfere with our dive plans. With high winds and seas, we had to put safety first and cancel today’s dive. Due to the weather, the bridge team drove on a heading best suited for the bumpy ride while getting us to our next dive site on time. The remotely operated vehicle (ROV) team finalized some hydraulic fixes to the ROV and did pressure testing. In the evening, sea states began to improve and all on board now feel hopeful that we will dive tomorrow.


 


 

 

 

GFOE ROV engineer, Dan Rogers, performs maintenance on Deep Discoverer’s starboard lower lightbar swingarm.

Global Foundation for Ocean Exploration ROV engineer, Dan Rogers, performs maintenance on Deep Discoverer’s starboard lower lightbar swingarm. Click image for credit and larger view.

Lead Scientists, Dan Wagner and Adam Skarke (from the left), discuss mapping with NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer Mapping Lead, Mike White (center), GFOE ROV Team Lead Karl McKletchie (second from right), and Expedition Coordinator, LT Nick Pawlenko (far right).

Lead Scientists, Daniel Wagner and Adam Skarke (from the left), discuss mapping with NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer Mapping Lead, Mike White (center), Global Foundation for Ocean Exploration ROV Team Lead Karl McKletchie (second from right), and Expedition Coordinator, LT Nick Pawlenko (far right). Click image for credit and larger view.

 


NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer
April 14, 2018

Rough Weather

During overnight mapping to Whiting Dome, the mapping team identified a seep north of Whiting Dome that does not appear to be in anyone’s database. NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer arrived on site to sustained heavy winds and high seas, with conditions continuing to build throughout the day. We even had an evening squall! With the weather being uncooperative, we unfortunately had to cancel the planned dive. On days when we can’t dive, there is still plenty to do. We spent the whole day mapping and performing maintenance onboard. Maintenance projects included the remotely operated vehicle (ROV) team improving access to the drawer for sample recovery, swapping out the starboard lower lightbar swingarm pan and tilt, and installing adapter brackets on ROV Seirios. The weather system that caused today’s dive to be cancelled is expected to continue producing high winds and seas though tomorrow afternoon. We will aim for calmer weather while mapping overnight and see what tomorrow brings.


 


 

 

 

Numerous Munidopsis squat lobsters were observed on the unidentified wreck.

Numerous Munidopsis squat lobsters were observed on the unidentified wreck. Click image for credit and larger view.

A Muusoctopus johnsonianus octopus was observed burying into the sediment near the survey area.

A Muusoctopus johnsonianus octopus was observed burying into the sediment near the survey area. Click image for credit and larger view.

This unidentified wreck was first discovered by industry mapping surveys. It appeared to be a portion of a wooden vessel with a few  metal items inside.

This unidentified wreck was first discovered by industry mapping surveys. It appeared to be a portion of a wooden vessel with a few metal items inside. Click image for credit and larger view.

video Watch video of octopods seen during the dive.

 


NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer
April 13, 2018

Dive 02: Engineering and Cultural Heritage

We were fortunate again to have good weather for Dive 02. We launched the remotely operated vehicle (ROV) at 8:15 AM CDT, and reached the bottom at approximately 9:35 AM CDT. The engineers finished testing ROV updates about 90 minutes later. This meant we were able to explore another nearby submerged cultural heritage site, one that was much smaller than the wreck we surveyed yesterday. This shipwreck was first discovered in 2006 by industry mapping surveys. While conducting inspection of industry operations a few years later, ROV operators unexpectedly came upon the shipwreck site and took a few low-resolution photographs. The vessel type and time period of the shipwreck are currently unknown, and therefore ROV Deep Discoverer conducted the first scientific investigation of the site in order to gain more information about it.

The wreck was first observed at approximately 11:30 AM CDT. The ROV approached the shipwreck from what appeared to be the stern and then conducted a reconnaissance survey, proceeding around the wreck in a clockwise rotation. The wreck was a portion of a wooden vessel with a limited number of metal items inside that may be related to propulsion or steering (e.g., prop shaft or rudder post). In consultation with Bureau of Ocean Energy Management marine archaeologists, the ROV pilots and navigator began a mapping survey of the wreck. The survey pattern should lend itself to creating a 3-D visualization of the wreck site. After the completion of the survey, the shoreside archaeology team requested additional close-up reconnaissance of specific parts of the wreck. Upon completion, the ROV transited westward of the wreck attempting to locate additional related debris, but none were found.

The most commonly observed animals on the shipwreck included Munidopsis squat lobsters, hydroids, sponges, tubeworms, polynoid scale worms, and zoanthids. A rattail, a Halosauridae fish, and two individuals of the same species of octopus (Muusoctopus johnsonianus) were also observed within close proximity of the wreck; they exhibited what appeared to be aggressive behavior, and one was observed burying into the sediment, a behavior that was previously unknown for this species.


 


 

 

 

Bow and view into the hull of what is believed to be the wreck of the tugboat New Hope. In 1965, the USCG performed a daring helicopter rescue of the New Hope’s crew during Tropical Storm Debbie and saved everyone aboard.

Bow and view into the hull of what is believed to be the wreck of the tugboat New Hope. In 1965, the U.S. Coast Guard performed a daring helicopter rescue of the New Hope’s crew during Tropical Storm Debbie and saved everyone aboard. Click image for credit and larger view.

A red crab (Chaceon quinquedens), which is a commercially fished species on a bollard amidships on the port side of the wreck.

A red crab (Chaceon quinquedens), which is a commercially fished species, on a bollard amidships on the port side of the wreck. Click image for credit and larger view.

video Watch video from the dive.

 


NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer
April 12, 2018

Dive 01: Engineering and Cultural Heritage

We arrived on site with calm weather conditions and launched the remotely operated vehicle (ROV) at 8:15 AM CDT. In the first four hours of the dive, we met the engineering shakedown objectives, including testing of buoyancy and trim at depth; hydraulic functions; and auto depth, altitude, heading, and position functions.

After the testing was complete, the vehicles proceeded to the shipwreck target and arrived on site at approximately 12:15 PM CDT. The objectives of the archaeological portion of the dive were to perform a general reconnaissance survey the shipwreck, conduct a systematic video mapping survey of the site, and collect high-quality imagery of archaeological artifacts, as well as any biology inhabiting the site. The site is believed to be the tugboat New Hope, which was sunk during Tropical Storm Debbie in September 1965.

The ROV approached the shipwreck from the stern and began a reconnaissance survey, proceeding to the bow along the starboard side and returning to the stern along the port side. The presence of masts and a stack rising above the seafloor by over six meters (~20 feet) precluded the planned full wreck mapping survey. The ROV pilots and navigator, in consultation with Bureau of Ocean Energy Management marine archaeologists, commenced a partial mapping survey of the bow and forward superstructure of the wreck. The ROV pilots surveyed the wreck in a pattern that lends itself to making 3D images of the wreck directly from the video. The dive concluded with visual reconnaissance of the stern of the vessel. In addition to surveying the wreck, many organisms were observed. These included sponges, hydroids, squat lobsters, cutthroat eels, squid, rattails, a batfish, a crab, sea cucumbers, urchins, and a cup coral.


 


 

 

 

NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer at port in Pascagoula, Mississippi.

NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer at port in Pascagoula, Mississippi. Click image for credit and larger view.

 


NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer
April 11, 2018

Embarking on the Gulf of Mexico 2018 Expedition

On a balmy Pascagoula morning at 10:55 AM, CDT, NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer got underway. Mapping operations commenced right away as we began navigating towards our first dive site, “ROV Shakedown 1.” The dive will be an engineering dive to test out upgrades to remotely operated vehicles (ROV) Deep Discoverer and Seirios. If all goes well during the dive, we might take a look at a nearby shipwreck! Most of the on-ship science team members have been on the ship before and spent the day re-familiarizing themselves with the ship and its equipment. Additionally, the ROV team finished their preparations, making sure that we are ready to dive tomorrow. The entire crew is excited for our first dive in the morning.


 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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