Science News

2015 Hohonu Moana: Exploring Deep Waters off Hawaiʻi

From July 10 to September 30, 2015, NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer will explore largely unknown deep-sea ecosystems in the Hawaiian Archipelago and offshore Johnston Atoll as part of the Hohonu Moana: Exploring the Deep Waters off Hawai’i expedition. During four separate cruise legs, NOAA and partners will investigate deep waters in and around Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument (PMNM) in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, Johnston Atoll in the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument (PRIMNM), the Geologists Seamounts group, and the Main Hawaiian Islands.

Priority operating areas and science themes for this 69-day expedition were developed with input from scientists and managers across the broad ocean science community. Themes and objectives for the 2015 Expedition include:

• Acquire data to support priority marine national monument and national marine sanctuary science and management needs;

• Identification and characterization of vulnerable marine habitats - particularly high-density deep-sea coral and sponge communities;

• Characterization of seamounts within the Prime Crust Zone (PCZ), an area of the Pacific with the highest expected concentration of deep-sea minerals, including rare metals and rare earth elements;

• Collect information on the complex geologic history of Central Pacific Seamounts, particularly those that are or may be relevant to our understanding of plate tectonics; and

• Provide a foundation of publicly accessible data and information products to spur further exploration, research, and management activities.

Operations will use the ship’s deep-water mapping systems (Kongsberg EM302 multibeam sonar, EK60 split-beam fisheries sonar, and Knudsen 3260 chirp sub-bottom profiler sonar), NOAA’s two-body 6,000-meter remotely operated vehicle (ROV) system, CTD rosette, and a high-bandwidth satellite connection for real-time ship to shore communications.

ROV dives will include high-resolution visual surveys and limited sampling – including the first-ever look at deep seafloor habitats offshore of Johnston Atoll below 400 meters and habitats deeper than 2000 meters in PMNM.

The 69-day expedition is divided into four ‘legs’ – one 24-hours-a-day mapping leg followed by three combined ROV/CTD/mapping legs. The tentative schedule for the full expedition is:

• Leg 1 (July 10 to 24): Mapping exploration cruise focused offshore of Johnston Atoll

• Leg 2 (July 31 to August 22): Telepresence-enabled ROV/CTD/mapping cruise focused on PMNM.

• Leg 3 (August 28 to September 3): Telepresence-enabled ROV/CTD/mapping cruise focused offshore the Main Hawaiian Islands and Geologists Seamounts.

• Leg 4 (September 7 to 30): Telepresence-enabled ROV cruise focused offshore of Johnston Atoll.

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