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Territory’s ocean waters explored

During a dive on sonar anomalies suspected to be a shipwreck, the Deep Discoverer remotely operated vehicle instead discovered the remnants of asphalt volcanoes, or “tar lilies.” Image courtesy of NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, Okeanos Explorer Gulf of Mexico 2014 Expedition.[photo: NOAA website]
You can watch the dives through live stream

The Okeanos Explorer, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) ship, arrived in the territory this past Saturday and the first cruise will start today, February 16 to March 2, conducting daily daytime remotely operated vehicle (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.

The cruise starts in Pago Pago, American Samoa, and ends in Apia, Samoa. From February 16 - 28, the public can watch the dives live at <> typically from about 8a.m. to 5p.m. SST.

The second cruise will take place from April 4 – 21. This cruise 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. The cruise will start in Apia, Samoa, and end in Pago Pago, American Samoa.

The crew is promoting an ocean exploration expedition entitled 2017 American Samoa Expedition: Suesuega o le Moana o Amerika Samoa.

From now until April, according to information received by Samoa News, “the crew will conduct two telepresence-enabled ocean exploration cruises on the Okeanos Explorer. Via telepresence, scientists will participate and help guide the expedition from shore by watching live video — streamed from the ship - and talking with other scientists via teleconference and instant messaging. These same video feeds can also be watched by anyone on shore by visiting the <> website.”

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 role of seamounts as hotspots of biodiversity and how they support fish like tuna and red snapper;
  • •           The relationship between shallow water areas and deep water areas so there is an understanding of how these ecosystems are connected;
  • •           Unknown species that are very likely to live in American Samoa waters;
  • •           Assessing past (and potential future) geohazards - explosive volcanic eruptions and potentially tsunamigenic submarine landslides; and
  • •           Evidence for recent volcanism at the Vailu’ulu’u submarine volcano, located 20 nautical miles due east of Ta’u Island.

In addition, according to a statement from the crew, “we 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.”

Yesterday, young children and special VIP guests were invited to take a special ‘tour’ of the vessel, which is docked at the Fagatogo wharf.

Later this month on February 24, there will be a live telepresence at the Tauese P.F. Sunia Ocean Center at 11a.m.


NOAA ship Okeanos Explorer “is the only federal vessel dedicated to exploring our largely unknown ocean for the purpose of discovery and the advancement of knowledge about the deep ocean. The ship is equipped with a state-of-the-art dual-body ROV, capable of diving 6,000-meter depths, as well as four different types of mapping sonars that collect high-resolution data about the seafloor and the water column.”

According to NOAA, “Okeanos Explorer takes every opportunity to survey the ocean, identify new habitats, species, and resources, and contribute critical information to enhance our understanding of the ocean.”

The objective of the 2017 American Samoa 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.

“NOAA’s priorities for the expedition include a combination of science, education, outreach, and open data objectives that will support management decisions at multiple levels.”

The expedition is part of a three-year (CAPSTONE) or Campaign to Address the Pacific monument Science, Technology, and Ocean NEeds, which is an initiative to collect deepwater baseline information to support science and management decisions in and around US Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in the central and western Pacific.

American Samoa is home to three MPAs: The National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa, the Rose Atoll Marine National Monument, and waters of the National Park of American Samoa.

NOAA says that “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 crew includes Expedition Manager Kelley Elliott of NOAA’s Office of Ocean Exploration and Research; Dr. Santiago Herrera, Biology Science Lead, Lehigh University; and Dr. Matthew Jackson, Geology Science Lead, University of California Santa Barbara.

Other sites where information about the expedition can be accessed include:

•           Facebook: NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research

  • •           Twitter: @oceanexplorer / #Okeanos
  • •           Instagram: noaaoceanexploration
  • •           YouTube: oceanexplorergov
  • •           Digital App: iOS device/Apple store | Android Google store