Media Resources

This page provides members of the media with information, resources, and multimedia products developed in association with the expeditions led by NOAA Ocean Exploration on NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer in support of the Beyond the Blue: Illuminating the Pacific campaign.

Importance | Goals | Partners | Background Information | Contacts

Beyond the Blue is a multiyear, collaborative science and research campaign aimed at bringing together partners to raise collective knowledge, understanding, and appreciation of waters in the Pacific Islands region through coastal and ocean mapping, exploration, and characterization. Beginning in 2024, NOAA Ocean Exploration will work with partners to conduct multiple expeditions on NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer, lead outreach and education activities and events, and build additional partnerships in support of Beyond the Blue.

In 2024, NOAA Ocean Exploration will lead a total of six telepresence-enabled expeditions on Okeanos Explorer to collect critical mapping data in deep waters of Hawaiʻi and Johnston Atoll in support of Beyond the Blue. These expeditions include:

  1. May 14 - June 9: Beyond the Blue: Hawai‘i Mapping
    Honolulu, Hawai‘i - Honolulu, Hawai‘i
  2. June 21 - July 11: Beyond the Blue: Papahānaumokuākea Mapping 1
    Honolulu, Hawai‘i - Honolulu, Hawai‘i
  3. July 18 - August 12: Beyond the Blue: Papahānaumokuākea Mapping 2
    Honolulu, Hawai‘i - Honolulu, Hawai‘i
  4. August 20 - September 7: Beyond the Blue: Johnston Atoll Mapping 1
    Honolulu, Hawai‘i - Hilo, Hawai‘i
  5. September 14 - October 10: Beyond the Blue: Johnston Atoll Mapping 2
    Hilo, Hawai‘i - Honolulu, Hawai‘i
  6. October 19 - November 12: Beyond the Blue: Papahānaumokuākea Mapping 3
    Honolulu, Hawai‘i - Honolulu, Hawai‘i

Note that while live video from the ship will be available during all expeditions in 2024, we will not be conducting remotely operated vehicle dives this year. Video will generally consist of real-time mapping data collection displays and scenes around the ship.

Importance of the Expeditions

The waters in the Pacific Islands region span a diverse range of ecosystems and dynamic geological environments and are home to cultures with long histories of ocean voyaging and exploration. They contain some of the last relatively pristine marine ecosystems on the planet and harbor numerous protected species, as well as undiscovered shipwrecks and cultural landscapes sacred to the Indigenous peoples of the Pacific. The biological, ecological, cultural, and geological significance of these areas has led to the designation of several marine protected areas, including Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument and the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument.

Despite the importance of these waters, they remain largely unexplored, particularly deep waters in the region. We can’t effectively manage or protect what we don’t understand. As we increasingly look to the deep ocean for the resources it holds and the services it can provide, more and better data are needed to help us make the right decisions to ensure the vitality of these ocean places.

While there is a lot of ocean to explore, focusing exploration in one area, like the Pacific Islands region, can help us better understand similar habitats in other areas and the biodiversity and ecological processes that these habitats support. Exploration also contributes to our understanding of the geological history and processes, including geohazards, of the planet as a whole.

Four Key Things to Know About the 2024 Expeditions

  1. From collecting baseline data and building key partnerships, 2024 is a foundational year for NOAA Ocean Exploration’s work on NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer in the central Pacific in support of the Beyond the Blue campaign. This year marks the return of Okeanos Explorer to the central Pacific region following work on the ship in the region in 2015-2017. As such, efforts this year will focus on mapping deep waters of Hawaiʻi and Johnston Atoll, allowing us to build a foundation for future work through the collection of data needed for further exploration and provide a baseline of data needed to manage regional marine protected areas, including Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument and the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument. This year also provides us with an opportunity to build on and establish collaboration, partnerships, and support necessary for successful exploration work in the region in future years, particularly in light of Beyond the Blue campaign efforts. As we focus on the collection of this foundational mapping data, we will not be conducting remotely operated vehicle operations in 2024.
  2. Throughout 2024 Beyond the Blue expeditions on Okeanos Explorer, we will use advanced sonar systems on the ship to fill critical gaps in mapping data within deepwater areas of the Hawaiʻi and Johnston Atoll. U.S. waters in the Pacific Islands region cover nearly 2.3 million square miles, an area 200 times the size of Hawai‘i! As of March 2024, less than half (47%) of these waters are currently mapped using modern technology. The collection of high-resolution mapping data, including seafloor, sub-bottom, and water column data, is the first step in exploring and thus understanding our ocean and is a key element of every NOAA Ocean Exploration expedition on Okeanos Explorer. Data collected during these expeditions will help fill mapping gaps in deep U.S. waters around Hawaiʻi and Johnston Atoll. In turn, we can further inform future exploration efforts, establish a baseline assessment of the ocean environment, increase our understanding of marine life and habitats to inform management decisions, and increase public awareness and appreciation of ocean issues.
  3. An important component of these expeditions is meaningful collaboration with Indigenous Pacific Island Communities and the incorporation of Indigenous knowledge systems, values, life experiences, ways of knowing, and practices in a two-way knowledge exchange that can help to build a more comprehensive understanding of the areas being explored. Over many generations, Indigenous Pacific Island Communities have evolved a holistic, cultural way of life, which includes Indigenous traditional knowledge that can inform and enrich what is learned through Okeanos Explorer science operations, allowing us to better understand, manage, and protect our ocean. Sharing of and engagement in work conducted on Okeanos Explorer with these communities, including data and research results and education and outreach efforts, may further enrich their understanding and connection to the ocean. By communicating and engaging with Indigenous Pacific Island Communities, NOAA Ocean Exploration hopes to learn more about Indigenous traditions and cultures, to gain insights into how we can better partner with these communities, uplift and incorporate Indigenous knowledge into the work we are completing, and ensure continued practical and respectful use and conservation of the region’s marine resources.
  4. These expeditions are being conducted in support of Beyond the Blue, a multipartner science and research campaign to map, explore, characterize, and develop a holistic understanding of the coastal and ocean waters of the Pacific Islands region. The campaign and NOAA Ocean Exploration efforts this year are focused on waters of the Pacific Islands region due to the biological, geological, cultural, and economic importance of the region and the need to understand resources here so that they can be appropriately and respectfully managed, used, and protected. This work builds upon previous work in the region, including the 2015-2017 Campaign to Address Pacific monument Science, Technology, and Ocean NEeds (CAPSTONE) and work on Exploration Vessel Nautilus sponsored by NOAA Ocean Exploration through the Ocean Exploration Cooperative Institute (OECI) and Ocean Exploration Trust. Work conducted under the Beyond the Blue campaign will contribute to the National Strategy for Exploring, Mapping, and Characterizing the United States Exclusive Economic Zone and Seabed 2030.

Goals of the Expeditions

The expeditions on Okeanos Explorer conducted in support of Beyond the Blue will address science themes and priority areas put forward by scientists and managers from NOAA, management agencies in the region, and the ocean science community, and local communities. NOAA priorities for each expedition include a combination of science, education, outreach, and open data objectives that will support management decisions at multiple levels. Overarching goals for Beyond the Blue expeditions on Okeanos Explorer include:

  • Improving knowledge of unexplored deepwater areas in the Pacific Islands region to inform management needs for sensitive habitats, geological features, and potential resources.
  • Collecting high-resolution bathymetry in areas with no or low-quality sonar data to extend bathymetric mapping coverage in support of the National Strategy for Mapping, Exploring, and Characterizing the United States Exclusive Economic Zone and Seabed 2030.
  • Characterizing water column habitats using acoustics and emerging technologies.
  • Collecting data to enhance predictive capabilities for vulnerable marine habitats, seafloor composition, seamount formation, plate tectonics, hydrothermal vents, critical minerals, and submarine geohazards.
  • Investigating biogeographic patterns of deep-sea ecosystems and connectivity for use in broader comparisons of deepwater habitat throughout the Pacific basin and to better understand how these ecosystems are responding to climate change and other stressors.
  • Mapping, surveying, and sampling geological features, including fault and fracture zones, hydrothermal vents, and extinct polymetallic sulfide systems to better understand the geological context of the region and improve knowledge of past and potential future geohazards.
  • Engaging a broad spectrum of the scientific community and public in telepresence-based exploration and providing publicly accessible information and data products to spur further exploration, research, and management activities.
  • Conducting operations that are co-developed with local Indigenous researchers and community members, emphasizing culturally relevant and respectful approaches.

Exploration Partners

Led by NOAA Research's NOAA Ocean Exploration, this series of expeditions on Okeanos Explorer involve a number of partners including the NOAA Office of Marine and Aviation Operations, NOAA Satellite’s National Centers for Environmental Information, NOAA’s National Ocean Service, NOAA Fisheries, and the Global Foundation for Ocean Exploration. The Beyond the Blue campaign also includes a variety of federal, academic, non-profit, and private-sector partners.

NOAA Ocean Exploration Background Information

  • NOAA Ocean Exploration is dedicated to exploring the unknown ocean, unlocking its potential through scientific discovery, technological advancements, and data delivery. We are leading national efforts to fill gaps in our basic understanding of the marine environment, providing critical ocean data, information, and awareness needed to strengthen the economy, health, and security of the United States and the world.
  • NOAA Ocean Exploration’s work supports the National Strategy for Mapping, Exploring, and Characterizing the United States Exclusive Economic Zone, which calls for coordinating interagency mapping and exploration activities for the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), developing new and emerging science and mapping technologies, building public and private partnerships, and completing mapping of the deep water of the U.S. EEZ by 2030 and the near shore by 2040.
  • NOAA Ocean Exploration owns the mission equipment being used during the expedition and is coordinating the mission on NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer. The ship is operated by the NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps and civilians as part of NOAA's fleet managed by the NOAA Office of Marine and Aviation Operations and the remotely operated vehicles are operated in partnership with the Global Foundation for Ocean Exploration.
  • Unlike many other ocean expeditions supported by NOAA, most of the scientists participating in expeditions on Okeanos Explorer remain on shore, thanks to telepresence technology. This technology includes a high-bandwidth satellite connection that enables the transmission of data and video to shore in real time, allowing scientists to participate in the expedition from anywhere in the world.
  • Data collected during expeditions on Okeanos Explorer are quality assured and then made quickly available to scientists and the public. This data collection serves as a unique and centralized national resource of critical ocean information for scientists and resource managers to plan future research, make management decisions, detect natural hazards, improve nautical charts, and more.

Media Contact Information

NOAA Ocean Exploration
Emily Crum
Communications Specialist
Email Address:
NOAA Office of Marine and Aviation Operations
Keeley Belva
Public Affairs Officer
Email Address: