Live telepresence event lets students interact with ocean explorers

Part of the “2017 American Samoa Expedition: Su’esu’ega o le Moana o Amerika Samoa”
blue@samoanews.com

A live telepresence event featuring the crew from the NOAA ship Okeanos Explorer was held at the Tauese P.F. Sunia Ocean Center in Utulei last Friday. Close to 200 people of all ages were present, including students from Leone Midkiff Elementary, Matafao Elementary, Nu'uuli Vocational Technical High School, Kanana Fou High School, and the American Samoa Community College (ASCC).

As part of the “2017 American Samoa Expedition: Su’esu’ega o le Moana o Amerika Samoa” the event provided a live interaction with scientists on board the NOAA ship Okeanos Explorer as they explore the deep water areas around American Samoa.

The goal of the expedition is to address science themes and priority areas put forward by scientists and managers from NOAA, management agencies in American Samoa, and the broad ocean science community.

Attendees were given the opportunity to speak to and hear from the scientists on board, view live video from the unexplored seafloor, and gain more insight about the expedition. Students were able to interact with the crew, ask questions, as well as see live shots from the Remote Operated Vehicle (ROV) that was roaming the ocean floor in places that have never before been explored.

Dubbed “America’s Ship for Exploration,” the Okeanos Explorer is the only federal vessel dedicated to exploring our mostly unknown ocean, for the purpose of discovery and advancement of knowledge.

From February 16 to March 2, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and its partners are conducting a telepresence-enabled ocean exploration cruise on Okeanos Explorer, “to collect critical baseline information of unknown and poorly known deep water areas” in both American Samoa and independent Samoa, with an emphasis on the Rose Atoll Marine National Monument, the National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa (NMSAS), and the National Park of American Samoa.

The explorers “expect to find deep-sea coral and sponge habitats, bottom fish habitats, hypothermal vents, and seamounts.”

The expedition is part of the three-year Campaign to Address the Pacific monument Science, Technology, and Ocean NEeds (CAPSTONE), which is “a foundational science initiative to collect deep-water baseline information to support science and management decisions in and around US marine protected areas in the Central and Western Pacific.”

The crew plans to conduct another telepresence-enabled ocean exploration cruise. From April 4 – 21, there will be a second cruise, which will focus on unmapped areas of the National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa and the Rose Atoll Marine National Monument, areas of interest for understanding the geologic history of the area and potential geohazards, and unmapped seamounts. That cruise will start in Apia, Samoa, and end in Pago Pago, American Samoa.

The Okeanos Explorer arrived in the territory two weeks ago and part of their routine includes conducting daily daytime ROV dives and overnight mapping operations in and around the National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa (NMSAS), the Rose Atoll Marine National Monument (including the active submarine volcano, Vailu’ulu’u), the National Park of American Samoa, and seamounts within American Samoa.

Members of the public can watch the dives live at <http://oceanexplorer.noaa.gov/okeanos/media/exstream/exstream.html> typically from about 8a.m. to 5p.m. SST.

Data and information from the expedition will fill gaps in knowledge about the deep-sea habitats in the region (below 250 meters, or 820 feet), and will improve understanding of topics known to be important to American Samoans.

The crew will be gathering “data for high resolution maps, information about water chemistry, and high resolution video to help reveal the unknown deep water world of the American Samoan Islands.”

According to NOAA, their priorities for the expedition include a combination of science, education, outreach, and open data objectives that will support management decisions at multiple levels. “Much remains unknown about the deep habitats and geology in and around these protected places and this expedition will contribute new information by exploring areas of the deep ocean in American Samoa for the first time.”

The Expedition website went live on Feb 13 at <http://oceanexplorer.noaa.gov/okeanos/explorations/ex1702/welcome.html>

Other items including mission logs, daily updates, and multimedia elements will be added to the Ocean Explorer website throughout the course of the expedition.

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