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From 2008 through early November 2021, NOAA Ocean Exploration mapped 2 million square kilometers (772,204 square miles) of seafloor aboard NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer. Okeanos Explorer is equipped with state-of-the-art multibeam sonar systems that use beams of sound to map the ocean floor. This map shows the cumulative multibeam mapping coverage. The gray lines indicate the boundaries of the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone.
News

NOAA Ocean Exploration Meets Major Mapping Milestone on NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer

Two million square kilometers. Or 772,204 square miles. That’s more than one quarter the size of the contiguous United States. And it’s the area of seafloor mapped by NOAA Ocean Exploration using the modern, high-resolution multibeam sonar system aboard NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer since the ship was commissioned in 2008.

It’s not every dive that deep-sea explorers encounter a bigfin squid (Magnapinna sp.). It’s actually pretty unusual; roughly a dozen sightings have been confirmed worldwide. So, when we captured an adult bigfin squid on camera during Dive 10 of Windows to the Deep 2021 off the West Florida Escarpment in the Gulf of Mexico, it was quite an exciting moment.
Video Feature

Bigfin Squid

It’s not every dive that deep-sea explorers encounter a bigfin squid (Magnapinna sp.). It’s actually pretty unusual; roughly a dozen sightings have been confirmed worldwide. So, when we captured an adult bigfin squid on camera during Dive 10 of Windows to the Deep 2021 off the West Florida Escarpment in the Gulf of Mexico, it was quite an exciting moment.

Clavularia, here seen during dive 6 of Deep Connections 2019, is a stoloniferous octocoral that grows in ribbons and mats over rock or skeletons of coral or sponges. The purple color is due to a pigment in the soft tissue and the white is reflections from sclerites. Image courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, Deep Connections 2019.
Ocean Fact

What Are Sclerites?

Sclerites are part of the microskeleton of an octocoral that provides support and protection. Because they are so varied in shape, size, and abundance in the tissue, they are used by taxonomists to help sort out the diversity of octocoral species.

Imaged by its camera sled ROV Seirios, ROV Deep Discoverer explores some interesting, yet potentially dangerous, geology on the Pourtalès Terrace during Dive 10 of the 2019 Southeastern U.S. Deep-sea Exploration.
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The Challenges of ROV Operations in the Southeastern United States

Whenever NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer plans to explore off the southeast coast of the United States, we know there will be challenges.

A shipwreck comes into view at the start of Dive 02 of Windows to the Deep 2021. Further exploration of the wreck throughout the dive revealed that it is likely the remains of SS Bloody Marsh, an oil tanker that was sunk by a German U-boat off the coast of South Carolina in 1943.
News

November 1, 2021

Discovery of SS Bloody Marsh

On October 28, 2021, NOAA Ocean Exploration discovered the likely wreck of SS Bloody Marsh, an oil tanker sunk off the coast of South Carolina by a German U-boat in 1943.

What is vertical migration of zooplankton and why does it matter?
Ocean Fact

October 28, 2021

What is Vertical Migration of Zooplankton and Why Does it Matter?

Every day, billions and billions of animals, mostly zooplankton (e.g., smallish animals, including fish, various shrimp, and jellies), migrate up and down in the ocean all over the planet. That’s a lot of movement. Scientists call it diel vertical migration, or DVM for short. But why does it happen?

Search for SS Bloody Marsh
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Search for SS Bloody Marsh

Between 1942 and 1943, Germany sent a fleet of U-boats to the shores of the United States to target merchant shipping vessels resupplying Europe. During this time, numerous oil tankers and freighters were sunk, many in deep water, that today have still yet to be located. One of these was SS Bloody Marsh, sunk on July 2, 1943 by U-66.

NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer
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NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer

As the only U.S. federal vessel dedicated to exploration of our largely unknown ocean, NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer travels the globe to increase our understanding of the deep ocean.

Remotely Operated Vehicle Deep Discoverer
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Remotely Operated Vehicle Deep Discoverer

Capable of diving to depths of 3.7 miles (6,000 meters), Deep Discoverer provides scientists unprecedented access to the deep ocean.

Remotely Operated Vehicle Seirios
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Remotely Operated Vehicle Seirios

Much like its namesake, Seirios acts as a brilliant source of light in the “night sky” of the ocean, providing illumination and a wide-angle view from above for its counterpart remotely operated vehicle, Deep Discoverer.

2019 Southeastern U.S. Deep-Sea Exploration – Remotely Operated Vehicle and Mapping Operations
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October 31 - November 20, 2019

2019 Southeastern U.S. Deep-Sea Exploration – Remotely Operated Vehicle and Mapping Operations

NOAA and partners conducted mapping and remotely operated vehicle operations from NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer to collect baseline information about unknown and poorly understood deepwater areas of the Southeastern U.S. continental margin.

Windows to the Deep 2019: Exploration of the Deep-Sea Habitats of the Southeast United States
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May 30 - July 12, 2019

Windows to the Deep 2019: Exploration of the Deep-Sea Habitats of the Southeast United States

NOAA and partners conducted a two-part, telepresence-enabled ocean exploration expedition on NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer to collect critical baseline information about unknown and poorly understood deepwater areas of the southeastern United States.

Windows to the Deep 2018: Exploration of the Southeast U.S. Continental Margin
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May 22 - July 2, 2018

Windows to the Deep 2018: Exploration of the Southeast U.S. Continental Margin

NOAA and partners conducted a two-part, telepresence-enabled ocean exploration expedition on NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer to collect critical baseline information about unknown and poorly understood deepwater areas of the Southeastern United States.

About the Expedition

Expedition Plan

From October 26 to November 15, NOAA Ocean Exploration and partners conducted a telepresence-enabled ocean exploration expedition on NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer. The Windows to the Deep 2021: Southeast ROV and Mapping expedition collected critical information about unexplored and poorly understood deepwater areas of the Blake Plateau region of the North Atlantic Ocean. This foundational information will encourage further exploration and research and inform resource management decisions and activities in the region.

During Windows to the Deep 2021, at-sea and shore-based science teams worked together to explore and map the seafloor and the water column. Our 24-hour operations included ROV dives during the day and mapping operations at night. We used the state-of-the-art deepwater mapping systems on Okeanos Explorer, our dual-bodied ROV system that can dive to depths of 6,000 meters (3.7 miles), and a high-bandwidth satellite connection for real-time ship-to-shore communications.

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Lead Explorers

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Key Expedition Themes

  • Blake Plateau deepwater mapping
  • Coral and sponge communities
  • Life in the water column
  • Resource management support

Planned Operations

This map shows the Blake Plateau region overlaid with the expedition track (white line) and tentative remotely operated vehicle dive sites (dots) for Windows to the Deep 2021: Southeast U.S. ROV and Mapping expedition.
This map shows the Blake Plateau region overlaid with the expedition track (white line) and tentative remotely operated vehicle dive sites (dots) for the Windows to the Deep 2021: Southeast U.S. ROV and Mapping expedition. Image courtesy of NOAA Ocean Exploration, Windows to the Deep 2021. Download largest version (jpg, 2 MB).