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.
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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