Discoveries from Leg 3 of the Okeanos Explorer’s EX1605 Expedition

Completed on July 10th, leg three of the NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer‘s EX1605 expedition was chock-full of discoveries. The Okeanos‘s remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) conducted 22 dives, exploring many recently-mapped sites in the Mariana Trench Marine National Monument (MTMNM). They ventured where no ROVs have dove before.

Ship-based sonar mapping, along with ROV imaging and rock sampling, revealed new hydrothermal vent sites, deep-water coral reefs, the first petit-spot volcano found in US waters, and a new mud volcano in the MTMNM.

ROV Deep Discoverer images a newly discovered hydrothermal vent field at Chammoro Seamount.

Amid the geological findings, biologists cataloged many new species. The pictures and videos below highlight some of the newly-discovered inner-space aliens (strange alien-looking creatures) from leg three of the Okeanos Explorer‘s EX1605 expedition.

This cusk eel, found at Unnamed Forearc on June 28th, 2016, was among the first new species discovered during this leg of the expedition.

 

This ghost-like fish, dubbed “Casper” by land-based scientists, is a species in the fish family Aphonoidae. Until June 30th, 2016, when the ROVs came across Casper, no fish in this family have ever been seen alive.

After a long geology-based dive, the ROVs came upon this undescribed species of Pachycara, commonly called eelpout.

  The scientists wished they had enough time to collect this new species of hard sponge that they discovered on July 6, 2016.

But, they were able to collect this new species of stalked glass sponge!

For more ocean exploration and discoveries be sure to check out the Nautilus Live website for updates from the E/V Nautilus! Situated of  the California coast, the Nautilus is currently (pun intended) mapping and conducting dives off the Channel Islands.

The Okeanos won’t be diving again until June 27th, 2016. Until then, check out dive highlights on our YouTube channel, and the NOAA Ocean Explorer YouTube channel! For more details about individual dives from the NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer visit the NOAA Okeanos Explorer website.

 


Images and videos courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, 2016 Deepwater Exploration of the Marianas.

What is an ROV?

If the ocean is so unfathomably wide and deep, how can scientists possibly hope to do any more than dip our noses beneath the waves to explore? Luckily, engineers have adapted machines to reach areas of the ocean that would never be possible with a human alone. This is where remotely operated vehicles, or ROVs, become essential tools of discovery.

The ROV Hercules travels alongside a sixgill shark, with the support of its tow sled, Argos*

To use an ROV, three pieces of technology are crucial. The first is the ship. This is where the scientists are conducting their research, and where the ROV pilot maneuvers the vehicle. The second piece is the tow sled. This piece of technology is used to absorb all of the movement associated with waves and currents, allowing the ROV to be stable. Lastly, is the ROV itself. The ROV and sled are tethered to their research vessel via fiber optic cabling. Through this system, the pilot can maneuver the ROV safely from the ship.

ROVs Deep Discoverer (right) and its tow sled Seirios (left) are prepared for another day of exploration. Image courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, 2016 Deepwater Exploration of the Marianas.

ROVs are designed to withstand the extreme cold and pressure of the deep ocean without malfunction. They are typically either colored yellow or white to stand out against the blues of the ocean, and are built out of materials that are resistant to many atmospheres of compression. ROVs are also balanced with the dense components on the underside, and the flotation portion on top, to offer more stability as it traverses the deep ocean. ROVs can also be equipped with a variety of tools to help them explore efficiently. Since the ocean continually gets darker the deeper one goes, all ROVs are equipped with extremely bright lights. Each ROV has a few high definition cameras that allows us to watch the ROV. They also have two lasers that are used for scale, generally they are 10 cm apart. Most vehicles have biofeedback manipulator arms that are used to gather samples. Some vehicles have a sample box to take bring samples up to the surface for more research.

The Deep Discoverer takes a close look at a rock outcropping. Image courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, 2016 Deepwater Exploration of the Marianas

These incredible machines are vital for scientists to explore parts of the ocean that would not otherwise be seen by human eyes. Tune into the live video feeds below to see ROVs in action, along with more exciting content!

Okeanos Explorer Live Stream

E/V Nautilus Live Stream

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Article by Remy Filiaggi

Featured image: 
The ROV Hercules views a shipwreck. Image curiosity of the Ocean Exploration Trust.

 

ISC Team helps discover black box from El Faro shipwreck

UPDATE:

Transcripts from the El Faro‘s black box have been released by the National Transportation Safety Board. The recording covers the last hours of the voyage. The Inner Space Center was integral in the discovery of the black box and was  praised by federal investigators.


Original Post:

The Inner Space Center (ISC) team has been working in conjunction with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to investigate the sinking of the El Faro cargo ship. The 790-foot cargo ship sank off the Bahamas during Hurricane Joaquin in October 2015.

NTSB has been interested in finding the “black box” (voyage data recorder) from the ship to further their investigations of the wreck. They are hoping the black box will show what was happening mechanically prior to the ship’s sinking, and also contain audio recordings of the captain and crew.

Dr. Dwight Coleman, Director of the ISC, worked with NTSB and WHOI to install telepresence technologies on WHOI’s research vessel (R/V), Atlantis.  WHOI’s autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV), Sentry, collected sonar data and high-resolution photographs of the ship’s 13.5-square mile debris field. The ISC’s telepresence technologies transferred these images, in real time, from the R/V Atlantis to on-shore investigators, while also allowing for quick and efficient two-way communications between those on board the ship and the team at NTSB’s headquarters in Washington, DC.

On Tuesday, April 26, 2016,  the black box was located, a critical discovery.  The ISC team hopes to use telepresence technologies to assist with future investigations of the El Faro cargo ship.


Wreckage map of the El Faro. Image courtesy of National Transportation Safety Board.

 

 

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

Introducing the Newest U.S. Academic Research Vessel: R/V Sally Ride

Named in honor of the first woman to travel into space, Dr. Sally K. Ride, the R/V Sally Ride is the newest of the United State’s Academic Research Vessels (UNOLS).  Operated by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, in cooperation with the Office of Naval Research (ONR), Sally Ride represents the new Ocean Class of research vessels. The 238-foot ship features seafloor mapping systems, doppler radar for mapping deep water currents, 2,035 square feet of lab space, and telepresence technologies. Continue reading Introducing the Newest U.S. Academic Research Vessel: R/V Sally Ride

Telepresence on the R/V Sally Ride

From November 28 to December 5, 2016, the Inner Space Center (ISC) supported a science verification cruise for the R/V Sally Ride, one of two, new vessels in the U.S. Academic Research Fleet.  These short cruises are intended to test the ship, crew, and science systems to make sure that all are in proper working order before the ship  departs for its first research expedition. The Sally Ride was named after the late Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, who was part of the space shuttle Challenger crew in 1983.


The ISC team tested
the ship’s capabilities to support the Jason remotely operated vehicle (ROV) system as well as ship-to-shore telepresence technologies and protocols that will enable shore-based participation during ROV dives. Director of the ISC, Dr. Dwight Coleman, installed a mobile telepresence unit (MTU) on board. This unit allows for any ship to have telepresence capabilities.

jason_870_0
ROV Jason deployed off the R/V Sally Ride.

During the cruise, ROV Jason was used for a variety of exploration activities. Geophysicist, Dr. Mark Zumberge, and his group from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, used Jason to attach geophysical sensors to the sea floor. Dr. Lisa Levin, also from Scripps, used the ROV system to continue biological survey of the seafloor around the Del Mar methane seep near San Diego, CA.

View from ROV Jason.

Along with ROV operations, the R/V Sally Ride was able to connect to the Birch Aquarium. Amanda Netburn, Bruce Applegate, and Dwight Coleman hosted live  broadcasts to the aquarium’s new Sally Ride exhibit.

Birch Aquarium audience.

For more details about the R/V Sally Ride, visit their website.

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!