Gulf of Mexico 2017 - NOAA R/V Okeanos Explorer
In late 2017, NOAA invited me on an expedition aboard the research vessel Okeanos Explorer, which used the remotely operated vehicle (ROV) Deep Discoverer, to explore the biology and geology of the deep Gulf of Mexico. I shared duties as science co-lead with Dr. Diva Amon, a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Research Fellow at the Natural History Museum, London, who is a globally recognized expert on deep-sea chemosynthetic communities and marine conservation. From 30 November to 20 December, the ROV surveyed 17 sites from the West Florida Escarpment in the eastern Gulf of Mexico to the continental shelf and slope in the northern Gulf as far west as Galveston, Texas, at depths ranging from 300 to 2,321 m. Although the deep Gulf of Mexico has been extensively explored, the expedition revealed numerous previously unknown habitats, including several remarkable ecological communities. Deep-sea geological settings included carbonate shelves, escarpments, cold seeps, mud volcanoes, asphalt seeps, brine pools, and sediment plains and slopes. Biological exploration focused on high-density deep-sea coral and sponge communities, bottom-fish habitats, and chemosynthetic communities. We observed hundreds of different species, including several likely new species, new records for the region, significant range extensions, and we observed several species alive for the first time. We also explored the wreck of an early 19th century merchant ship.
Okeanos Explorer uses telepresence: the live video feed from the ROV on the sea floor runs to the ship via fiber optic cable, where Diva and I (and scientists from around the U.S. and the world connected via telephone and chatroom) add our live narration, which goes out in real time via satellite and is freely accessible to anyone with an internet connection. Information on other Okeanos expeditions (and the live feed when the ship is at sea) can be found at: https://oceanexplorer.noaa.gov/okeanos/explorations/ex1711/welcome.html.
CLICK ON ANY IMAGE BELOW TO LINK TO A VIDEO ON THE Okeanos Explorer WEBSITE.
Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) Deep Discoverer.
Deep-sea coral Madrepora oculata with squat lobsters.
Armored sea robin, Peristedion sp.
Methane bubbles seeping from an orange methane hydrate deposit.
Vertical wall with bamboo corals and other gorgonians.
Deep-sea swimming sea cucumber, Enypniastes eximia.
Asphalt seep with white chemosynthetic bacterial mat.
Giant deep-sea pill bug (isopod), Bathynomus giganteus.
Chimaera, or rabbitfish, a cousin of sharks and rays.
Chemosynthetic mussel bed.
Brine river on the deep-sea floor. A chemosynthetic mussel bed is at right.
Chemosynthetic worms, Lamellibrachia sp.