Category Archives: Exploration

Exploration is any expedition that seeks to uncover the unknown. Exploration news shouldn’t have any specific science goals.

Northwest Passage Project Press Release

URI’s Graduate School of Oceanography receives $2.9 million grant for groundbreaking Arctic expedition

Team will sail into Northwest Passage next August to conduct research, education aboard tall ship, Oliver Hazard Perry

NARRAGANSETT, R.I., Sept. 7, 2016—The University of Rhode Island has received a $3 million grant from the National Science Foundation to conduct a groundbreaking research and education expedition into the Canadian Arctic’s Northwest Passage.

URI’s Graduate School of Oceanography’s Inner Space Center, an international facility that supports and conducts ocean science research expeditions, will lead the expedition, which will begin in August 2017.

The three-year Northwest Passage Project is a collaboration among the GSO, the film company David Clark, Inc., and several other partners, including America’s newest tall ship, the SSV Oliver Hazard Perry, three science museums, PBS NewsHour Reporting Labs, and six Minority Serving Institutions: California State University Channel Islands; City College of New York; Florida International University; Texas State University; University of Illinois at Chicago; and Virginia Commonwealth University.

The consequences of climate warming are more pronounced and observable in the polar regions than any place else on Earth. The team will explore the changing Arctic through unprecedented educational and scientific endeavor, which centers around a five-week expedition on the SSV Oliver Hazard Perry, the first full-rigged sailing ship to enter the Northwest Passage in more than a century.

Two groups, each consisting of 18 students—six high school students, nine undergraduate students, and three graduate students—will sail for 17-day legs of the expedition. The students will receive science instruction as the ship is underway, gain navigation and sailing skills, and work alongside ocean scientists as they conduct Arctic research. The 18 undergraduate students will be from the Minority Serving Institutions. There will be an application process for high school and graduate students.

The students will also contribute to daily live broadcasts from the Arctic that will stream from the ship via satellite to the Inner Space Center, which will then send the live broadcasts to the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History, the Exploratorium in San Francisco, and Alaska Sea Life Center in Seward, where audiences will be able to interact in real time with the scientists and students aboard the ship.

In addition to the live broadcasts from sea, the project will result in a two-hour, ultra high-definition documentary for television. The Minority Serving Institutions and the three science museums will host screenings of the film and events where the public can meet the expedition’s students and scientists.

Gail Scowcroft, associate director of the Inner Space Center and principal investigator and director of the project, says she is delighted to receive the grant.

“The rapidly changing Arctic environment is an issue of global importance,’’ Scowcroft says. “Broader impacts of Arctic research must include informing policy, educating the citizenry to make sound decisions, and inspiring students to become the next generation of scientists. Challenges to educating the public and communicating the realities and impacts of the changing Arctic must be overcome with credible, understandable science and proven methods of climate education. The project meets these challenges. We are extremely grateful to the National Science Foundation for giving us this opportunity, and we look forward to bringing high school, undergraduate, and graduate students along on the expedition of a lifetime. We fully expect that the onboard team of filmmakers led by David Clark, an award-winning film producer and director, will capture the participants’ excitement so that the public can share in our journey.’’

“We are blessed with a top shelf team,’’ says Scowcroft. More than 25 ocean science researchers and educators from throughout the country will be involved. Brice Loose, GSO scientist and co-principal investigator of the project, will be the chief scientist for the expedition and will lead the students in conducting cutting-edge research. Inner Space Center Director Dwight Coleman, an international leader in telepresence technology, will direct the shore-side operations of the expedition.

The team will depart from Newport in August 2017. The ship will sail to Pond Inlet in Nunavut, Canada, where the scientists and students will begin their research. The film crew will join the ship there. “Our Northwest Passage Project team will be part of history,’’ says Clark, “as we provide a visually stunning and historically poignant platform from which diverse audiences will experience a dramatically changing Arctic.”

For more information, visit www. Innserspacecenter.org or contact the Northwest Passage Project Coordinator Andrea Gingras at 401-874-6524.

Photo above: SSV Oliver Hazard Perry. Photo by Onne van der Wal.

Courtesy of the University of Rhode Island. Media contact Elizabeth Rau, 401-874-4894

Amazing aphyonid fish!

The NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer has been having an amazing cruise leg with lots of new discoveries. Last night the scientists made another amazing discovery. The scientists observed an aphyonid fish, roughly 10 cm long. This is the first time that this creature has ever been seen alive! 

Aphynoid fish. Never seen alive until today! Image curteousy of NOAA Okeanos Explorer.
Aphynoid fish. Never seen alive until today! Images courtesy NOAA Okeanos Explorer.

Scientists were thrilled to see such an amazing fish! This eel-like fish has been found around 2,000-6,000 meters. The aphynoid fish had transparent skin and reduced eyes. They are known for their unusual reproductive habits.

Be sure to follow the NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer for more amazing discoveries!

Okeanos Update: Team Dives Mud Volcanoes

In the Marianas, the west-moving Pacific plate is forced beneath the Philippine plate as they collide, a process known as subduction. As a result, the region is characterized by many geological features including fault lines, earthquakes, volcanoes, cold seeps, hydrothermal vents, and mud volcanoes. Continue reading Okeanos Update: Team Dives Mud Volcanoes

To Boldly Go… Ahyi Seamount

About 12.5 miles off the coast of Farallon de Pajaros, within the Mariana Trench Marine National Monument, lies the Ahyi Seamount, an active underwater volcano. This site remained unexplored until June 22nd, 2016, when the NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer launched its remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) to investigate the volcano. Continue reading To Boldly Go… Ahyi Seamount

Deep Discoveries Are Getting Seirios

How little is known about our ocean is a fact many agree on, however scientists are actively working to bridge the gap between the unknown and discovery. Right now, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of Exploration and Research (NOAA OER) began the third cruise of their current research expedition. Aboard the NOAA ship Okeanos Explorer with remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) Deep Discoverer and Seirios, scientists are well on their way to meeting their goals for this trip. The area undergoing daily exploration is the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) and the Marianas Trench National Monument (MTMNM) in the western Pacific. The latter area is under NOAA’s protection, based on inferences that there may be unique features within its depths. Gathering baseline data and learning more about what these areas contain will enable effective conservation initiatives.

Continue reading Deep Discoveries Are Getting Seirios

Central California Expedition – E/V Nautilus 2016

In its second season of Pacific exploration, the E/V Nautilus has been busy mapping and exploring along the western coasts of Canada and the U.S., from Vancouver Island to southern California. The third leg of the 2016 season is currently underway, and will continue from June 27 to July 2, 2016.

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Map of the E/V Nautilus’ 2016 Expeditions. Image courtesy of Ocean Exploration Trust.

The current (third) leg of the Nautilus’ expedition season is focused on the central California region, an area rich in both geological and biological components.  Exploration goals include remotely operated vehicle (ROV) dives to investigate deep sea canyons, seamounts, and rocky banks.  Some highlights of this expedition will include looking at the deep sea communities from Bodega Canyon to Point Dume as well as exploring the oxygen minimum zones around the Santa Barbara Basin and Channel Islands. Oxygen minimum zones are regions of the ocean in which dissolved oxygen in seawater is at its lowest, usually occurring from 200-1,000m. Organisms found in these regions will be of high interest to researchers due to their ability to adapt to low oxygen conditions in addition to a lack of sunlight and other extreme factors associated with the deep sea environment. The E/V Nautilus will also revisit a site with a large methane seep that was first discovered during  the vessel’s 2015 expedition. This site is home to several different bacterial mats and clam beds and is being revisited to complete a geochemical map of the seep.

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Clam bed site. Image courtesy of Ocean Exploration Trust.

Later this  season, the E/V Nautilus will be travelling to several other locations along the U.S. Pacific coast, including the Southern California Margin as well as the Channel Islands and Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuaries. Watch the ROV camera feeds and hear scentist dialogues in real time at http://innerspacecenter.org/live-video/nautilus-live/.

Sea Star of the Show

Scientists on the NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer were thrilled to see a species of sea star alive for the first time in history. The six-rayed sea star,  Rhipidaster (confirmed over phone by Chris Mah from the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History), was found at Supply Reef,  an active submarine volcano within the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument.  The sea star was last catalogued by scientists over 150 years ago in 1860, when a dead specimen was found. Now, not one, but three of these remarkable sea stars were seen during a June 23, 2016, ROV dive, implying that the species has been living all this time. The fact that this species was seen in an unexpectedly biodiverse region speaks volumes of what else may be awaiting discovery beneath our oceans’ depths. The ship’s mission is far from over.  Participating scientists are excited to see what other unexpected discoveries remain to be revealed!