Date: September 3, 2019
Location: Lat: 40.85017°, Lon: -66.54200°
Dive Depth Range: 921 - 1,074 meters (3,024 - 3,526 feet)
Today we had a very special dive that provided the opportunity to both contribute to science and exploration and honor the memory of our colleague, marine spatial ecologist Dr. Brian Kinlan. Dr. Kinlan pioneered the use of habitat suitability models to inform NOAA deep-sea exploration efforts. The models he helped develop informed the selection of many of the dive sites we will explore during the Deep Connections 2019 expedition, including today’s. Our dive site today was within Kinlan Canyon, named after Dr. Kinlan, and we dedicated this dive to his memory, and his friends and family.
Two previous remotely operated vehicle (ROV) dives have been conducted inside Kinlan Canyon, including one in 2013 by ROV Deep Discoverer and another in 2017 by ROV ROPOS. Both of these dives documented communities of the reef-building coral Lophelia pertusa. Today’s dive sought to further explore the distribution of this and other corals within the canyon, as well of that of sponges and other benthic organisms.
The ROV reached reached the seafloor on soft substrate in the axis of the canyon at a depth of 1,074 meters (3,526 feet). Cutthroat eels, long-finned hake, spiny lobster, short-finned squid, red crabs, and pancake urchins were documented here. The ROV then began transiting northwards across the canyon axis towards the canyon wall. Once we reached the northern canyon wall, we adjusted our track to ascend the canyon wall on a ridge arm, rather than a gully. At about 1,060 meters (3,478 feet) depth, the slope transitioned from fine grained sediments to large boulders and cobbles encrusted with corals, sponges, and other invertebrates. Our surroundings then transitioned again, this time into sheer cliff walls of poorly sorted sandstone matrix, likely from the same geological formation that was observed at the base of the minor unnamed canyon on Dive 05. We decided to transit along the canyon walls, so as to stay within the same geological unit and maximize our chances of observing Lophelia pertusa. These walls supported dense aggregations of deep-sea corals and sponges, including stoloniferous octocorals, bamboo corals, bubblegum corals, Lophelia pertusa and other stony corals, demosponges, and glass sponges.