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Exploration team returns from 20 days of deep-sea observations in Papāhanaumokuākea


An interagency group (NOAA, Ocean Exploration Trust, ad partners) of 43 researchers, educators, and mariners returned from a 20-day exploration at Papāhanaumokuākea Marine National Monument, in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

The team lived on exploration vessel Nautilus and studied the coral and sponge communities on the Voyager Seamounts south of Kapou, or Lisianski Island.

Nautilus Ship
44 researchers, educators, and crew members boarded E/V Nautilus for 20 days to observe deep sea life at Papāhanaumokuākea.

They operated for 24 hours by having each member take two four-hour shifts every day.

A remotely operated vehicle (ROV) was used to dive 3,000 to 9,600 feet into the ocean and capture images. The ROV has a camera that allows researchers on the boat to see underwater images.

Andy Collins, the education coordinator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, compared what he saw to an alien world, saying, "There’s so many strange things down there."

"And the coolest thing about this is when we broadcast this stuff, that’s the first time anybody on the planet has ever set eyes on these environments. Nobody’s looked at them before. Nobody’s even mapped a lot of these features. It’s the first time. It’s like exploring an alien world with scientists commenting on what they’re seeing, and a lot of times they’re stumped. That’s what’s really cool," Collins told HPR.

Live broadcasts were conducted with over 70 classrooms to teach students about ocean life.

The research conducted on this exploration not only teaches the public about deep-sea life, but helps advise companies who are looking to mine rare Earth elements from deep seafloors that could potentially impact the environment.

Underwater videos taken by the ROV can be viewed here.

Zoe Dym is a news producer at Hawaiʻi Public Radio.
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