NOAA Okeanos Explorer discovers deep sea creatures

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NOAA Okeanos Explorer Discovers Deep Sea Creatures


The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Okeanos Explorer is the only federally funded U.S. ship assigned to systematically explore the oceans in pursuit of new discoveries. The ship uses telepresence — access to the ocean in real-time — to connect on-shore audiences with the sea floor.

First commissioned in August 2008, the Okeanos Explorer has been traveling the globe, exploring places such as the Indonesian Coral Triangle Region, the Caribbean Sea's Mid-Cayman Rise and deep-sea habitats in the Gulf of Mexico and the Galapagos. Many of the ship's journeys investigate previously unexplored places.

According to NOAA's website, roughly 95 percent of the planet's oceans are still uncharted. The purpose of the Okeanos Explorer is to lower that percentage.

NOAA insists that the ship is not a research vessel. The Okeanos Explorer is dedicated solely to exploration, focusing on mapping the sea floor and investigating unknown areas of the ocean. To do this, the ship uses a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) to take high-definition video and images. Telepresence allows on-shore scientists to follow and study any discoveries made on the ship.

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NOAA Okeanos Explorer discovers deep sea creatures

A purple crinoid hangs out on a dead coral stalk.

(Photo via NOAA)

D2 discovered one of the largest aggregations of brisingid sea stars anyone on the ship had ever seen.

(Photo: NOAA)

Seeing two deep sea animals interacting with each other is rare. What is particularly rare is when they behave the opposite of how we expect them to. As we approached this armored sea robin, a brittle star climbed on top. We were pretty sure that the fish would try to eat the brittle star, but as it turns out, it just wanted to dislodge the extra baggage. The brittle star then proceeded to climb on top of the sea robin two more times.

(Photo via NOAA)

Benthic jellyfish.

(Photo via NOAA)

Brisingid sea stars.

(Photo via NOAA)

Ceramaster granularis. (Goniasteridae)

(Photo via NOAA)

Neomorphaster forcipatus (Stichasteridae).

(Photo via NOAA)

This beautiful hydromedusa was imaged in Washington Canyon. Unfortunately, none of the scientists watching the dive live specialized in water column life.  However, due to the pace at which telepresence allows us to disseminate information, the video of this organism was quickly circulated around the country to experts in the field and the hydromedusa was identified as Cyclocanna welshi with a couple days.

(Photo via NOAA)

We imaged this purple octopus with large glassy eyes during dive #8. 

(Photo via NOAA)

Crossota sp., a deep red medusa found just off the bottom of the deep sea.

(Photo via NOAA)

Anemone attached to a carbonate boulder near the GC852 sampling station at 1,500 meters depth.

(Photo via NOAA)

A lovely sea cucumber dancing in the water column is imaged by the Little Hercules ROV at approximately 1500 meters depth offshore Kona, Hawaii. Image taken during ROV shakedown operations aboard NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer on March 22, 2010.

(Photo via NOAA)

Here, an octopus mother protects her eggs in Hendrickson Canyon. If you look closely, you can see the eyes of a baby octopus through the egg. 

(Photo via NOAA)

Portrait of a juvenile boxfish, 1 cm long, collected by a bluewater diver in the top 30 meters of the Celebes Sea water column.

(Photo via NOAA)

Image of the breathtaking squid captured on camera during ROV Dive 3.

(Photo via NOAA)

Rock hind in a sponge photographed while free diving off Klien Bonaire in about 20 ft. of water.  Image courtesy of Bonaire 2008: Exploring Coral Reef Sustainability with New Technologies, Chris Coccaro, NOAA-OE.

(Photo via NOAA)

(Photo via NOAA)
(Photo via NOAA)
(Photo via NOAA)
(Photo via NOAA)

This stunning octopod, Benthoctopus sp., seemed quite interested in ALVIN's port manipulator arm. Those inside the sub were surprised by the octopod's inquisitive behavior.

(Photo via NOAA)

This giant isopod is a representative of one of approximately nine species of large isopods (crustaceans related to shrimps and crabs) in the genus Bathynomus. They are thought to be abundant in cold, deep waters of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Bob Carney of LSU caught this specimen in one of his deep-water fish traps.

(Photo via NOAA)

Aulococtena is the size and color of an orange and has two tentacles that are white, thick, unbranched and very sticky. This species has been encountered from 350-1100 meters deep on this expedition.

(Photo via NOAA)

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The footage then airs at Exploration Command Centers located at the University of Rhode Island, the Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Seattle, Washington, NOAA Headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland, and the University of New Hampshire's Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping. At these sites, scientists guide the ship through daily operations from thousands of miles away.

For a glimpse of what the Okeanos Explorer sees on the ocean floor, check out the video above and the slideshow below. For more about Okeanos Explorer's missions, click here.

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