The NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer , with a dedicated team both aboard and on shore, set sail on its 100th ocean exploration mission on June 22. It is fitting that this milestone expedition to explore the deep and mostly unexplored ocean off the southeastern United States begins at the hub of our nation’s space exploration program – Cape Canaveral, Florida and will end in Northfolk, Virginia.
Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute research professors, Jim Masterson, Ph.D., Shirley Pomponi, Ph.D. and John Reed, Ph.D., are assisting NOAA with the research via live stream through the Harbor Branch Command Center. The crew is collecting critical baseline information about unknown and poorly understood deepwater areas of the Southeastern United States from June 20 through July 12. A remotely operated vehicle (ROV) is sending high-definition live video to host institutions, such as Harbor Branch, part of the Atlantic Seafloor Partnership for Integrated Research and Exploration (ASPIRE).
Operations consist of daytime remotely operated vehicle (ROV) dives and overnight mapping operations. ROV dive sites are expected to include deep-sea coral and sponge habitats, submarine canyons, potential methane seeps, maritime heritage sites, and midwater exploration.
ROV dives will include high-resolution visual surveys of water column and seafloor habitats as well as biologic and geologic sampling. This expedition will help establish a baseline of information in deepwater regions to catalyze further exploration, research, and management activities.