Gulf of Mexico 2018

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.


In this image from the NOAA Environmental Visualization Lab, the Loop Current in the center of the Gulf of Mexico is large and warm, while winter-chilled water draining the Mississippi River watershed envelop the bayous and bays of Louisiana.

May 2: Diving in a Loopy Current

Why would a strong Loop Current affect our ability to deploy remotely operated vehicle Deep Discoverer on some expeditions and not others? The quick answer is that, on this expedition, the Loop Current has pinched off an eddy which brought weaker currents to the escarpment region.

A bathymetric map of the eastern Gulf of Mexico showing the length of the Florida Escarpment from De Soto Canyon to the Florida Keys.

May 1: Formation of the Florida Escarpment

If all goes according to plan, the final eight dives of the NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer Gulf of Mexico 2018 expedition will take place along a 900-kilometer (~560-mile) long cliff under the Gulf of Mexico, known as the Florida Escarpment.

Diva Amon discusses her experiences using telepresence technology as a scientist with NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer during a presentation at the Attenborough Studio in London’s Natural History Museum.

April 30: International Gulf-Stream Telepresence—Beaming Okeanos Explorer Imagery Across the Pond!

Most of us know that NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer is a very special ship for numerous reasons. On Friday, 27 April 2018, we had a great example of telepresence at its finest, with a live interaction between the ship and the Natural History Museum in London.

Sibogaster nieseni

April 29: Abyssal Stars from the Gulf of Mexico: A Bounty of Surprises!

As Okeanos Explorer surveyed deeper and unexplored regions in the Gulf of Mexico, Chris Mah was reminded that the Gulf of Mexico is a potential treasure trove of unknown, distinctive, and fascinating echinoderm species!

Chief Boatswain Jerrod Hozendorf drives the Fast Rescue Boat during training exercises.

April 28: Where Do You Work?

NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer Chief Boatswain Jerrod Hozendorf's adventure and love affair with the ocean began as a small child, holding his grandfather’s and father’s hands while and being tossed about in the surf zone at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. To say the ocean is in his blood would be an understatement.

D2 observed a small brine pool at the base of a depression during Dive 6.

April 27: A Waterfall Under the Sea

Halfway through Dive 06 of NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer 2018 expedition to the Gulf of Mexico, remotely operated vehicle Deep Discoverer crested a low rise on the seafloor and peered into the sediment-lined depression below.

D2 observed a small brine pool at the base of a depression during Dive 6.

April 26: Mud Volcanoes and Gas Hydrates

The mound in the Hidalgo Basin (Garden Banks Protraction Area Block 903) that NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer explored during Dive 06 was formed by a very obvious “gas chimney” in the subsurface that was once the migration route for gas, sediment, and brine.

At URI’s ISC, BC students participate as members of the science team during the NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer Gulf of Mexico 2018 expedition.

April 25: Deep-sea Biology Class Becomes Part of the Expedition Team

In preparation for the expedition, the scientific community was tasked with proposing previously unexplored sites in the Gulf with the potential to reveal new geologic features, biological communities, or archaeological discoveries. As part of this effort, Boston College Professor Heather Olins and her deep-sea biology class were invited to submit dive site proposals.

Unidentified squid seen on Dive 04.

April 23: Squids and More from Dive 04

Dive 04 of the expedition was remarkable for someone like Dr. Mike Vecchione who is particularly interested in pelagic mollusks, including squids and the swimming snails known as pteropods, or sea butterflies.

Orthophoto looking down (plan view) on the wreck of the New Hope tugboat.

April 21: Photogrammetry for Archaeological Survey

Photogrammetry has become an empowering technique for documenting underwater features or sites in 3D. The combination of relatively straightforward image acquisition protocols and the ability to render both geometrically accurate and photorealistic models using readily available software has made the technique popular.

Swimming sea cucumbers.

April 20: Dive 07: Flight of the Sea Cucumbers (Video)

During the Gulf of Mexico 2018 expedition, we have encountered many deep-sea holothuroids (sea cucumbers) that not only swim, but rise, sink, and hover. These behaviors suggest that some species are specially adapted to manage their buoyancy (the force that allows something to float, sink, or remain neutral in a liquid) remarkably well.

On Dive 02, a glass bottle was observed near the shipwreck we surveyed.

April 18: Deep Sea Debris

In the ocean, one of the many detrimental environmental problems is marine debris. Marine debris is defined as any persistent solid material that is manufactured or processed and directly or indirectly, intentionally or unintentionally, disposed of or abandoned into the marine environment or the Great Lakes.

D2 exploring a shipwreck.

April 15: The Logistics of Trying to Conduct Shipwreck Dives During Engineering Shakedown Dives

We strategically planned remotely operated vehicle engineering shakedown dives near cultural heritage sites, in case we got ahead of schedule and had time to visit shipwrecks as well. We thought this would be a good way to increase morale on the ship and still meet our objectives.

LT Abbitt recording data during a monitoring event at the Diego grounding site in the Dry Tortugas.

April 13: Getting to Know You: Rosemary Abbitt, Operations Officer Aboard NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer

As we departed from Pascagoula, I had butterflies in my stomach. The excitement of discovery is what NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer is known for and I am thrilled about my new assignment as the Operations Officer aboard this ship, exploring the deep sea on this and future expeditions.

Dive 02: Kraken Attack

April 13: Dive 02: Kraken Attack (Video)

While exploring an unidentified shipwreck on Friday the 13th during Dive 02, we encountered two octopods, Muusoctopus johnsonianus.

Dive 01: Photo'bomb'etry

April 12: Dive 01: Photo"bomb"etry (Video)

Looming out of the gloom in the deep water of the Gulf of Mexico, the tug New Hope appears as a long forgotten crumbling relic. With the bow riding proud and a towering smoke stack, the tug sits on the seafloor as if still making way to the next port. New Hope is a well-preserved example of this vessel class.

LT Nick Pawlenko, the Gulf of Mexico 1803 Expedition Coordinator, hard at work in the control room aboard NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer.

April 11: And We're Off!

The Gulf of Mexico 2018 expedition is the final of three NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer expeditions to the Gulf of Mexico since November 2017. This is my first time serving as the ship’s Expedition Coordinator and I am very excited about our voyage. We have a great team and on any given remotely operated vehicle dive anything can happen!




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