News Article | October 26, 2016
Portable observatories and new marine vehicles: The hinge of historic change in deep sea exploration Five hundred vents newly discovered off the US West Coast, each bubbling methane from Earth's belly, top a long list of revelations about "submerged America" being celebrated by leading marine explorers meeting in New York. "It appears that the entire coast off Washington, Oregon and California is a giant methane seep," says RMS Titanic discoverer Robert Ballard, who found the new-to-science vents on summer expeditions by his ship, Nautilus. The discoveries double to about 1,000 the number of such vents now known to exist along the continental margins of the USA. This fizzing methane (video: http://bit. ) is a powerful greenhouse gas if it escapes into the atmosphere; a clean burning fuel if safely captured. "This is an area ripe for discovery," says Dr. Nicole Raineault, Director of Science Operations with Dr. Ballard's Ocean Exploration Trust. "We do not know how many seeps exist, even in US waters, how long they have been active, how persistent they are, what activated them or how much methane, if any, makes it into the atmosphere." Further research and measuring will help fill important knowledge gaps, including how hydrocarbons behave at depth underwater and within the geological structure of the ocean floor. Expeditions this year include also NOAA's Deepwater Exploration of the Marianas Trench - a 59-day voyage with 22 dives into the planet's deepest known canyons in the Pacific Ocean near Guam. NOAA explorers added three new hydrothermal vents to the world's inventory and a new high-temperature "black smoker" vent field composed of chimneys up to 30 meters tall - the height of a nine-story building. Also revealed: a tiny spot volcano (the first ever discovered in US waters), a new mud volcano, thick gardens of deep-sea corals and sponges, a rare high-density community of basket stars and crinoids (a living fossil), and historic wreckage from World War II. (Photo, video log: http://bit. ) Scores of spectacular, rare and sometimes baffling unknown species encountered on this year's first-ever voyages to new deep ocean areas include several purple animals such as: Beyond being spectacularly photogenic, such animals help scientists better understand the web of life that sustains all species, including humans. As well, understanding how "extremophile" lifeforms survive in such conditions (piezophiles, for example, thrive in high pressure; pyschrophiles, aka cryophiles, live in water as cold as ?20 °C, as in pockets of very salty brine surrounded by sea ice), is usefully relevant to food and pharmaceutical preservation technologies, medical technology, nanotechnology and energy science. Dr. Ballard and about 100 other leading figures in marine science meet Oct. 20-21 to compare thoughts on the future of marine exploration at the 2016 National Ocean Exploration Forum, "Beyond the Ships: 2020-2025," hosted in New York by The Rockefeller University in partnership with Monmouth University. The Forum is also supported by the Monmouth-Rockefeller Marine Science and Policy Initiative, NOAA, the Schmidt Ocean Institute, and James A. Austin, Jr. Ocean exploration has arrived at a historic hinge, Forum organizers say, with profound transformation underway thanks to new technologies, led by increasingly affordable "roboats" - autonomous or remotely controlled vehicles that dive into the ocean or ply the surface laden with sensors collecting information from instruments suspended beneath them. ROV SuBastian, for example, is a new eco-friendly 3,100 kg (6,500 pound) deep-sea research platform for the Schmidt Ocean Institute's R/V Falkor, equipped with ultra high-resolution 4K cameras, mechanical arms that move seven ways and can sample to depths of 4,500 meters (2.8 miles), with a lighting system equivalent to the lamps of 150 car high-beams. (SuBastian sea trials video: http://bit. High-res photos, b-roll: http://bit. ). Says Wendy Schmidt, co-founder of Schmidt Ocean Institute: "With ROV SuBastian we will help make life on the ocean floor real to people who will never visit the sea, so they, too, can begin to appreciate the importance of ocean health and make the connection between life in the deep sea and life on land." "You don't have to be a scientist at sea to recognize the importance of the marine environment, and we are only at the beginning of our understanding. We never anticipated discovering the world's deepest living fish, the ghostfish (video: http://bit. ), back in 2014, and are excited about the life we will discover next." ROV SuBastian will have that opportunity this December during its first science cruise, in the Mariana Back-Arc in the western Pacific. (Cruise details: http://bit. . All dives will be live-streamed on Schmidt Ocean Institute's YouTube page: http://bit. ). Contributing as well to the transformation: Modern communications and sampling techniques, including eDNA, big data analysis and other high-tech advances that automate and vastly accelerate the work, opening the way for experts and the public to reach, see, chart, sample and monitor formerly secret depths of the seas. Innovations include portable observatories for underwater monitoring and a "curious exploration robot," programmed to focus on everything unfamiliar to its data bank brain (photo: http://bit. , video: http://bit. , credit WHOI). According to innovator Yogesh Girdhar of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, in a recent test off the Panama coast, a similar swimming robot discovered a startlingly enormous population of crabs. Other engineers, meanwhile, are developing "game changing" unmanned undersea and surface vehicles tricked out with an array of sophisticated sensors to perform a suite of underwater tasks, enabled to run for months by recent improvements in battery technology. (See video, for example, of Boeing's 51-foot Echo Voyager: http://bit. ). Such "roboats" can be programmed to conduct deep sea exploration or searches using a lawn mower pattern, surfacing regularly to report data back to shore via satellite, or to patrol a coastal area, returning to port after one or two months to recharge and redeploy. These technologies will enable today's generation to "explore more of Planet Earth than all previous generations combined," predicts Dr. Ballard, whose celebrated career will be recognized at the Forum with the Monmouth University Urban Coast Institute's Champion of the Ocean award. The technologies will not only help discover and monitor new mineral and living resources, they could help secure interests vital to the world's economy or identify the best paths for communications cables that span the ocean floor - the veins of the Internet. Until recently, ocean exploration has involved ships operated like fishing vessels, dipping sensors and hauling up data. Forum participants such as John Kreider of Oceaneering International envision such ships in future serving as hives from which flotillas and squadrons of autonomous underwater, surface and aerial vehicles are launched - robots guided by experts on board or remotely, such as from a distant university campus via "telepresence," returning with images and data orders of magnitude larger than ever before. Thanks to modern communication technologies, schoolchildren, their teachers and indeed any interested members of the public can, and do, now follow expeditions online in real time. Among the many compelling interests and pursuits of marine scientists and historians in the public, private and military sectors: Says scientist James (Jamie) A. Austin, Jr. of the University of Texas, "the slow, time consuming and expensive way we've done ocean exploration forever - one ship doing one task at a time - is giving way to autonomous systems that net massive hauls of data, with advances in big data analysis enabling scientists to make sense of it rapidly." Dr. Austin envisions installations on the seafloor - measuring tremors or helping scientists estimate the rate at which Earth swallows carbon into its mantle through plate tectonics, for example - with data delivered by a device periodically flying up and down to the surface. Simply mapping the ocean floor is an important goal. While satellites have fully charted the seafloor in low resolution, only 10% is mapped in detail. At an estimated cost of $2.9 billion - or about $9 per square kilometer ($23 per square mile) - a "Gurgle Earth" map of the deep oceans could be completed at high resolution using swath like, multi-beam sonar. The hazard of uncharted oceanic mountains, trenches, volcanoes and other features was dramatically underscored in 2005 when a nuclear attack submarine, the USS San Francisco, struck a seamount in the Pacific at high speed, killing one crew member and injuring 97. Over 50% of US territory lies beneath the ocean surface and such mapping could also expand American territorial and resource claims. With documentation of the continental shelf, America's Exclusive Economic Zone, 11.3 million square km in size today, could extend a further 2.2 million square km - a 20% enlargement, representing an underwater area larger than Alaska. (See http://bit. ). Other recent finds of ancient shipwrecks and even ancient human remains, he adds, reveal that early mariners didn't simply hug the coastline but sailed courageously great distances from shore, and make it possible to determine who they were. While these and countless biological discoveries represent things discovered underwater, the intent of future exploration campaigns include measuring more, sampling more, and better understanding physical, geological and living processes - knowledge of vital importance for security, responsible ocean use and sustainable resource management. Asked what he thought might yet be discovered underwater, Dr. Ballard compares that to asking Lewis or Clark what they thought they'd find on their historic traverse of America. The reply, he says, would have been "I don't know. I'm getting into a canoe and I'm going to paddle." In one of several papers written for the Forum, meanwhile, U.S. Ambassador Cameron Hume adds that, beyond exploring and the initial characterization of an ocean area, humanity also needs to pursue subsequent research and long-term observing. In his paper, Dr. Jerry Schubel of the Aquarium of the Pacific, lamenting the relatively low level of public attention accorded to ocean exploration, points to new opportunities for awareness raising created by social media. "Understanding life on other planets," he says, "may help us understand the origins of life in the universe, but it can't match the relevance and importance of ocean exploration to the future of life on this planet." Says organizer Prof. Jesse Ausubel, faculty member at The Rockefeller University: "SuBastian and the Roboats sounds like a rock band, but it is the future of ocean exploration. One million marine species and one million shipwrecks may remain to be discovered. Let's use new approaches to multiply exploration." Says Forum organizer Vice Admiral Paul Gaffney, former President of Monmouth University and Urban Coast Institute Ocean Policy Fellow: "America is the greatest maritime nation in the history of the world, yet we scarcely know submerged America and only about 10% of the global oceans. At this Forum, we are encouraging ocean technology leaders to join the discussion and support more comprehensive exploration campaigns indispensable for sustainable use of the oceans and inspiring ocean stewardship." The ultimate aim: to formulate compelling, feasible campaigns to be carried out by the participants in the 2020-2025 timeframe. At the Forum, Dr. Jyotika Virmani will share the roster of teams for the $7 million Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE, a global competition to promote unmanned ocean exploration. In a letter to the Forum (in full: http://bit. ), the President of the US National Academy of Sciences, famed ocean explorer Marcia McNutt, says "a number of events have underscored how essential our mission is to vastly improve knowledge of the marine environment." Inadequate knowledge of ocean terrain and currents hampered the search for flight MH 370 in 2014, for example. CubeSats, she notes, have "'democratized' space, providing access for pennies on the dollar. Similarly, new commercial tools, although still in their infancy, hold the promise of ushering in the citizen science era of ocean exploration." "The task we face is simply too large to continue to use 20th century tools if we hope to make a dent in the problem." Oct. 20-21Venue: The Rockefeller University, 1230 York Ave, New York, NY.Website, including Forum programme and speaker biographies: http://phe. Supporters: the Monmouth-Rockefeller Marine Science and Policy Initiative , NOAA, the Schmidt Ocean Institute, and James A. Austin, Jr. Positioning Ocean Exploration In a Chaotic Sea of Changing Media Jerry R. Schubel (Aquarium of the Pacific) http://bit. Exploring the Ocean through Sound Jennifer L. Miksis-Olds (University of New Hampshire) and Bruce Martin (Dalhousie) http://bit. Discussion Paper on Marine Minerals Mark Hannington, University of Ottawa, and Sven Petersen, GEOMAR Helmholtz Center for Ocean Research http://bit. Emerging Technologies for Biological Sampling in the Ocean Shirley Pomponi, Cooperative Institute for Ocean Exploration, Research, & Technology [CIOERT], Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, Florida Atlantic University http://bit. The Forum is the latest in a series mandated by Congress (Title XII of Public Law 111-11) in March 2009 when it officially established the NOAA ocean exploration program. This law requires NOAA to consult with the other federal agencies involved in ocean exploration, as well as external stakeholders, to establish a "coordinated national ocean exploration program" that promotes data management and sharing, public understanding, and technology development and transfer. The law also requires NOAA to organize an "ocean exploration Forum to encourage partnerships and promote collaboration among experts and other stakeholders to enhance the scientific and technical expertise and relevance of the national program." The 2016 Forum convenes approximately 100 experts from academia, government, and the private sector to discuss adaptation and integration of technologies that can be employed in ocean exploration campaigns in the 2020-2025 timeframe. The Forum will look to a future of expanded exploration activities by making more platforms capable of measuring, sampling, or imaging yet-to-be-explored areas - employing a suite of technologies that have been dubbed "flyaway systems." Expanding spatial coverage and reducing cost of data collection are key ocean exploration priorities over a ~10 year time horizon. These priorities can be realized by creatively adapting and assembling existing technologies, and deploying them onboard autonomous devices, buoys, various so-called ships-of-opportunity, and other platforms, in addition to the existing fleet of dedicated ocean exploration vessels. The Forum will help federal funding agencies and foundations define and prioritize exploration technology investment options for 2020-2030, and stimulate a vision among leading explorers of what it might be like to conduct expeditions in this time frame. James A. (Jamie) Austin Jr., University of Texas Robert Ballard, Ocean Exploration Trust and University of Rhode Island Frank Herr, Office of Naval Research, US Navy John Kreider, Oceaneering International Alan Leonardi, NOAA Ocean Exploration and Research Shirley Pomponi, Florida Atlantic University Rick Rikoski, Hadal Inc. Jerry Schubel, Aquarium of the Pacific Lance Towers, The Boeing Company Victoria Tschinkel, 1000 Friends of Florida Invitees represent the academic, government, non-profit, and for-profit communities, with expertise in both the engineering aspects of creating relevant equipment, and in exploratory and scientific applications of such equipment. Beyond the Ships: 2020-2025 is the first of four annual Marine Science & Policy Series conferences that will be organized by Rockefeller and Monmouth, with events taking place on alternating campuses in New York City and West Long Branch, New Jersey.
News Article | February 21, 2017
SANTA MONICA, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The Montgomery Summit presented by Macquarie, the leading, invitation-only business and technology conference, today announced speakers and presenting companies for this year’s event, taking place March 7th-9th in Santa Monica. Hosted and curated by Summit founder James Montgomery, the exclusive gathering attracts a global community of over 2,000 leading investors, entrepreneurs, and industry executives. “Now in its 14th year, the 2017 Montgomery Summit continues the tradition of gathering today’s leading entrepreneurs, investors, companies, and executives across industries from around the world,” said Montgomery. “We’re delighted to bring together a talented community of influencers defining the field to discuss the most pressing business and technology issues and forge new relationships and solutions to address them.” The Montgomery Summit consistently features global leaders and influencers as keynote speakers. This year, Summit guests will hear from luminaries who continue to drive significant and impactful innovation in technology and leadership: The Montgomery Summit will also offer a series of panels featuring executives from Accenture, Summit Partners, Vista Equity Partners, Nasdaq, Cisco, Microsoft, GE, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Under Armour, Rakuten, Recruit, Ping An, Bosch, NS Solutions, Samsung, Visa, RSA Security, Dell, Salesforce, IBM, and other entities. Adding three new tracks, including “Southern California Technology Showcase,” “The Rise of India,” and “The Future of Food,” the Summit will also present salons with world class resources such as Andrea Ghez (Professor of Physics & Astronomy and MacArthur Fellow), Jacob Jaber (CEO of Philz Coffee), Robert Ballard (President, Ocean Exploration Trust), John Nottingham (Co-President of Nottingham Spirk), and Gene Sykes (CEO of LA 2024 Olympic Bid). The private technology companies presenting at this year’s event were selected from over 4,000 nominations made by members of the Montgomery Summit community. Nominations were evaluated by each company’s sector, stage, growth, and engagement metrics, as well as criteria including management, vision, and more. Presenting companies represent the most impressive and innovative companies in their fields, including enterprise software, cloud infrastructure, cybersecurity, marketing and advertising technology, eCommerce, virtual reality, and financial technology. Among the 150 emerging companies presenting at this year’s Summit, notable companies include App Annie, Mashable, Crowdstrike, Darktrace, Thrive Market, BillDesk, CarTrade, Mirantis, Hootsuite, ZipRecruiter, LegalZoom, The Honest Company, Turo, FanDuel, and Cloudflare. The Rise of the Female Entrepreneur In addition to its regular agenda, the Montgomery Summit will host a unique, invitation-only event for female leaders in technology, which will precede the conference on Tuesday, March 7th. The event is a stand-alone program that will recognize, support, and celebrate “The Rise of the Female Entrepreneur.” More than 400 female attendees are expected to attend, including entrepreneurs, C-level executives, and partners at leading venture capital firms. The Montgomery Summit has selected 50 female millennial entrepreneurs who will attend the Summit as guests with complimentary registration. Co-chaired by Niloofar Razi Howe, Chief Strategy Officer at RSA, and Kate Mitchell, Managing Director at Scale Venture Partners, the event will be keynoted by Cindy Crawford, fashion icon and entrepreneur, and Nancy Altobello, Global Vice Chair - Talent at EY. Additional programming will include panels on “The Financial Perspective of Building a Company” and “Leadership, Strategy, People: Lessons for Building a Successful Business.” Since 2004, The Montgomery Summit has been the premier technology industry-insider event for entrepreneurs, executives, and investors, offering extraordinary opportunities for making deals and building relationships. This year’s Summit is programmed thanks to lead sponsors Macquarie, Accenture, Signal Hill, March Capital Partners, and EY. The Montgomery Summit gathers an invited group of entrepreneurs, senior investors, and leading executives to discover the most important innovations in business and technology. The event features two days of presentations, keynotes, panels, and salons at the Fairmont Miramar Hotel in Santa Monica, Calif. Previously known as The Montgomery Technology Conference, the Summit has for more than a decade provided unparalleled opportunities to meet a diverse blend of technological visionaries and innovators from all over the world. For more information, visit www.montgomerysummit.com.
News Article | October 25, 2016
COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - Scientists have found 500 seabed vents bubbling methane into the Pacific Ocean off the United States, roughly doubling the number of known U.S. seeps of the powerful greenhouse gas, a study showed on Wednesday. Methane naturally escapes from the sea floor in many places around the world and can stoke global warming if it reaches the atmosphere. Worldwide, scientists are trying to see if rising ocean temperatures cause more leaks. "It appears that the entire coast off Washington, Oregon and California is a giant methane seep," Robert Ballard, who is famed for finding the wreck of the Titanic and has now discovered the 500 new seeps, said in a statement. "The discoveries double to about 1,000 the number of such vents now known to exist along the continental margins of the USA," the statement said. Nicole Raineault, Director of Science Operations with Ballard's Ocean Exploration Trust, said it was unknown how long the seeps had been active, what triggered them and how much, if any, of the gas reached the atmosphere. Gunnar Myhre, an expert at the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research in Oslo, said research in Arctic waters off Norway's Svalbard archipelago indicated that most seabed methane there dispersed in the water. And when seeps are found "it's most likely that they've been occurring for a long time," he told Reuters. No one has had technology to map seeps until recent decades. About 100 experts will meet on Oct. 20 and 21 for a U.S. National Ocean Exploration Forum in New York, hosted by The Rockefeller University in partnership with Monmouth University. The scientists hope to promote more research into marine science after recent finds of creatures including a purple sea cucumber and a tiny "Mud Monster" in the deep Pacific by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "One million marine species and one million shipwrecks may remain to be discovered," Jesse Ausubel, of the Rockefeller University, said in a statement.
News Article | October 26, 2016
Scores of spectacular and rare under sea species have been found by expeditions this year to some of the deepest trenches in the Pacific Ocean. They include strange purple orbs, "mud monsters" and a bizarre swimming sea cucumber reminiscent of a flying Mary Poppins. Another voyage found around 500 new undersea methane vents off the US west coast. This doubles the number of known seeps, bubbling up a powerful greenhouse gas. The gas vents were found by an expedition mounted by Dr Robert Ballard, the man who first located the wreck of the Titanic. In his ship, the Nautilus, the Ballard team found new vents which were discovered off Washington, Oregon and California. Little is known about the amount of methane that is coming out from these vents and how much is entering the atmosphere. But researchers say the new discoveries may better inform global estimates of these emissions. "Methane seeps were basically unknown 20 years ago," said Prof Jesse Ausubel, from the Rockefeller University, part of the Nautilus team. "At first people thought they were incredibly rare and now, thanks to these expeditions, these seeps may be very widespread, so the (methane) budgets may have to be recalculated, that's why the exploration is important." One of this year's key expeditions mounted by the US National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), was a 59 day exploration of the Marianas Trench, the world's deepest underwater canyons. As well as discovering three new "black smoker" hydrothermal vents stretching up to 30 metres in height, the voyage also revealed some rarely seen, mysterious creatures. "I think it's always surprising what we find," said Dr Nicole Raineault, director of science operations at the Ocean Exploration Trust, which organised the expedition. "We've looked in the Mediterranean, the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean and now the eastern Pacific Ocean with these remotely operated vehicles to get images of the sea floor, and we are continually surprised with the variety of life that we find." "It just underscores how little we know about the ocean and how much more there is to discover our there." Follow Matt on Twitter @mattmcgrathBBC and on Facebook.
News Article | August 22, 2016
A purple squid with eyes so googly it could easily be mistaken for a character in the movie "Finding Nemo" was recently spotted by scientists off the coast of Southern California. The so-called stubby squid (Rossia pacifica) is a species of bobtail squid native to the northern Pacific Ocean. These adorable sea creatures can be found in waters from Japan to Southern California, and typically dwell along the ocean floor, at depths of around 984 feet (300 meters), though they have been spotted as deep as 4,260 feet (1,300 m), according to the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI). The stubby squid's giant eyes, that "look painted on," delighted the scientists aboard the Exploration Vessel (E/V) Nautilus. In a live stream of the Nautlius' undersea explorations, one researcher said the googly-eyed squid looks "like some little kid dropped their toy." [Photos: See the World's Cutest Sea Creatures] "On that watch it happened to be a lot of geology folks or ecology folks, so a lot of the commentary was of course more like 'What is this thing, it's so cute!' and sometimes we have less of that when we see rocks," Samantha Wishnak, a science communication fellow aboard the E/V Nautilus, told Live Science. The scientists on watch during the squid sighting also initially misidentified the stubby squid as a cuttlefish, which the squid is closely related to. Wishnak said the E/V Nautilus team was able to rule out cuttlefish, as the species is not found in the eastern Pacific Ocean. With a few other ideas for what the species might be, the researchers on board collaborated with scientists ashore and at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and MBARI, to identify the stubby squid. Stubby squids are nocturnal hunters, so Wishnak said it was exciting to see the animal in its "somewhat natural behavior" rather than hidden in the sea floor. "They actually have this pretty awesome superpower, they can turn on a little sticky mucus jacket over their body and sort of collect bits of sand or pebbles or whatever they're burrowing into and make a really nice camouflage jacket," Wishnak said. "When they go to ambush something and prey on something, they're able to sort of turn off that mucus jacket." Other stubby squid sightings by divers have resulted in the same "deer in the headlights" kind of reaction, Wishnak said. The animals are used to being in darker waters, camouflaged from view. "I think what we encountered was a squid who was not expecting to see us in any way," Wishnak said. The E/V Nautilus is currently on a four-month expedition to explore the eastern Pacific Ocean. Next, the ship will move from the coast of Southern California to the San Francisco Bay. The vessel's mission is to explore the oceans and seek out the unknown, and is operated by the Ocean Exploration Trust, a nonprofit organization founded by oceanographer Robert Ballard. Recent discoveries on this expedition have included a mysterious purple sea orb and a sighting of the world's largest bony fish, the Mola mola. Copyright 2016 LiveScience, a Purch company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
News Article | October 26, 2016
Methane is gushing forth from hundreds of newly-discovered deep-sea vents all along the US’s western seaboard. “It appears that the entire coast off Washington, Oregon and California is a giant methane seep,” says Robert Ballard, founder and director of the Ocean Exploration Trust in Connecticut. In all, 500 new seeps were discovered by submersibles operated from the trust’s ship, Nautilus (see video below). The discovery will be presented this week in New York at the National Ocean Exploration Forum. However, there’s still work to be done to pin down the exact composition of the bubbles coming from the seeps. “Members of our group are analysing the samples taken in June for a wide range of gases,” says Robert Embley, chief scientist on the Nautilus. Embley says that previous samples from similar sites were mostly methane, but methane hydrate – made from water and methane – can form too. Methane has the potential to accelerate global warming because it traps heat 40 times as effectively as carbon dioxide. Knowing how much is gushing out of the seeps and what amount makes it into the atmosphere should enable estimates of their impact on global warming in the future. “The first step to finding out is getting a baseline of what’s coming out of the seafloor at present,” says Embley. The team thinks it is likely that they will find yet more seeps on the seafloor off the eastern US. “We hope there will be opportunities for more mapping in the next couple of field seasons to get a more complete baseline of sites,” says Embley. Also being showcased at the National Ocean Exploration Forum this week is the amazing variety of rare and unusual sea creatures. They were filmed this year in the Mariana Trench by submersibles operated from the Okeanos, a deep-sea exploration ship managed by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Those caught on camera include glowing orb-like creatures (see video below), spectacular Dracula squids, sea cucumbers that resemble Mary Poppins carrying an umbrella, and a distinctive purple relative of the cuttlefish, so cute it has been dubbed the cuddle fish. Curiously, many are purple, but no one knows why. “There may not really be many deep-sea animals that are purple, they just seem to be the ones that get our attention,” says Tara Luke of Stockton University in New Jersey. Read more: New Arctic life on barren seabed thrives on methane jets
News Article | August 22, 2016
A team of scientists and technicians scanning the rocky ocean floor off Southern California couldn't contain their excitement when they spotted a bright-purple, googly-eyed stubby squid. They let out a collective "whoa" on video posted on the Exploration Vessel Nautilus' Facebook page as a camera on a remote-operated vehicle came across the iridescent cephalopod with giant round eyes. Then the jokes started. "He has weird eyes!" said one enthusiastic observer. "Get close! Get close!" urges another. One suggested it resembled a child's dropped toy, and another said the creature's eyes appeared to be painted on. "It looks so fake," says one member of the Nautilus' team. The creature looks like a cross between a squid and an octopus but is closely related to a cuttlefish, according to the Nautilus Live website. The find could be more than just bemusing. "In addition to the googly-eyed cuteness, there is one thing biologically interesting about this observation," said cephalopod expert Michael Vecchione of the Smithsonian Institution. The creature could be a new species, he wrote in an email to the expedition. It was spotted at nearly 3,000 feet deep, which is unusual, but not unheard of. But, on top of that, the stubby squid didn't have chromatophores, cells that allow it to change color, as members of its species do, Vecchione said. The question can't be answered because this particular stubby squid remains deep in the ocean, out of scientists' reach. The Nautilus team is part of a four-month Ocean Exploration Trust expedition to map underwater fault zones from Canada to California and understand ecosystems around them. The team spends hours scanning the barren ocean-scape, "then to come across something adorable like that — it's a real treat," Exploration Vessel Nautilus spokeswoman Susan Poulton said. Content Item Type: NewsSummary: A team of scientists and technicians scanning the rocky ocean floor off Southern California couldn't contain their excitement when they spotted a bright-purple, googly-eyed stubby squid. Featured Image: Contributed Author: By Alina Hartounian, Associated PressTopics: BiologyMeta Keywords: Exploration Vessel Nautilus, stubby squid, googly-eyed stubby squid, Nautilus Live website, particular stubby squid, Vessel Nautilus spokeswoman, expert Michael Vecchione, rocky ocean floor, four-month Ocean Exploration, underwater fault zones, Nautilus team, iridescent cephalopod, giant round eyes, weird eyes, Facebook page, remote-operated vehicle, Southern California, enthusiastic observer, googly-eyed cuteness, barren ocean-scape, Trust expedition, Susan Poulton, Smithsonian Institution, new species, real treat, creature, scientists, cuttlefish, excitement, octopus, technicians, jokes, member, observation, child, cross, ecosystems, camera, thing, feet, email, Canada, toy, chromatophores, colorExclusive:
News Article | July 30, 2016
More than 5,000ft below the surface of the ocean, in a canyon off the coast of southern California, the purple, globular creature appeared to glow under the submersible’s lights. “What is that?” one researcher asked, as the submersible’s camera moved over a crab to where the tiny orb hovered near a ledge. “I’m stumped,” another replied. “I have no idea. I can’t even hazard a guess.” “Are we going to grab it?” a third asked. The crab, startled by the submarine, scuttled toward the ledge. “Unless the crab gets it first.” One of the crab’s spindly limbs knocked the orb, but it clung steadfast in place. A researcher guessed it could be related to plankton, the “kind that are sort of lumpy and thick like that”. Another tried “an egg sack of some sort” with “a little embryo type thing inside”. The team trained a vacuum at the creature, ready to suction it into a storage container. “It looks like a disco ball right now with the lasers next to it,” one scientist said. Before long, the purple mystery was transferred from the depths to the waiting ship above. On the E/V Nautilus, an exploration ship manned by the not-for-profit Ocean Exploration Trust, the organism’s “ball sort of unfolded into two folds”, said Susan Poulton, a spokesperson for the group, in a call from the ship. “It revealed a foot and rhinophores, which are these ear-like structures, and you see a sort of proboscis come off the back of it,” she said. “That’s when it clearly became a gastropod of some kind.” The team now believes the 5cm organism, found in Arguello Canyon, an underwater formation just west of the Channel Islands, near Santa Barbara, is probably a variant of sea slug: mollusks that crawl with the help of a single foot and whose family includes a variety of brightly colored species that fly, dance and swim through nearly all levels of the oceans. The organism’s strange glow was an effect of the light of the submersible, Pouton noted: the animal does not appear to be bioluminescent, like some species of deep sea life. Poulton said the crew believed the organism belonged to the pleurobranch group of gastropods, rather than the often brightly colored nudibranch, and may be a new species. No known species of California deep sea pleurobranch was purple, she said. The team sent a sample to the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology for DNA analysis. Confirming a new species could take months, Poulton said. Many pleurobranchids eat plankton and other microscopic life, and in general are less streamlined than their nudibranch cousins. The photo archives of the Sea Slug Forum reveal a menagerie of spotted blobs, leopard-striped slugs and flabby organisms lined with spikes and ridges. The E/V Nautilus has spent weeks along the west coast investigating undersea life, tectonic rifts and cracks in the sea floor where methane plumes out. Most of the ocean remains unmapped, and the ship’s primary objective is to explore the depths and assist dozens of projects pitched to it by hundreds of scientists. The crew broadcasts its explorations as live 24-hour video feeds on its site, Facebook and Twitter, and as data transmitted so biologists, geologists and archaeologists around the world can request samples or more data as needed. In the coming months the ship will return to active geology near Los Angeles and sail north to explore three shipwrecks. One will be that of the USS Independence, an aircraft carrier used as a target in the atomic tests at Bikini Atoll and scuttled as a radioactive hulk in 1951, off San Francisco. The Nautilus will also explore the Ituna, a luxury yacht that went down in 1920 en route to Oregon, and the wreck of a freighter, the Dorothy Windermote. The Channel Islands marine sanctuary covers about 1,470 square miles of ocean; less than half of its sea floor has been mapped. The E/V Nautilus crew has also found whelks building egg towers, crabs dining on those eggs, formations that looked manmade but are actually natural, brooding octopus mothers and feeding sandstars. Poulton said the slug was the first potential new species of the expedition, in contrast to a recent season at the Galapagos where “our biologists onboard were suspecting we’re finding new things every day”. But she noted that sometimes it took years for scientists to discover that samples thought mundane were in fact new species – and that the team has located several areas fertile for new research. The crew of the Nautilus has found new methane seep sites off the coast of California, where rich communities of life thrive in unforgiving conditions. The environments are havens for rare species and coveted areas of research for microbiologists investigating the origins of life. Alan Kuzirian, a senior scientist at the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole, Massachusetts, said that from a review of the Nautilus video, “the likelihood of it being a pleurobranchid is reasonable”. “One cannot really distinguish any true dorsal structures like rhinophores or gills, so the Notaspidea might be a good starting place,” he added, referring to a suborder of “sidegill” sea slugs. “You could hear on the video that someone said it had a flat foot. That helps.”
News Article | November 2, 2016
E/V Nautilus, the 211-foot research vessel that has been exploring the depths of our oceans for the last few years has made another intriguing discovery in the Gulf of Mexico. Approximately 4,200 feet below the surface, researchers from the Ocean Exploration Trust found a large brine pool, measuring more than 80 feet wide and 12 feet deep. The pool has been nicknamed the “Jacuzzi of Despair” because of its unusually warm temperature and toxic environment, which is four to five times saltier than the surrounding water. The “underwater lake” has its own surface and shoreline, and salts leaching out of the seafloor create a barrier to the water around it. According to the researchers, brine pools in the Gulf of Mexico formed from “salt tectonics” where salt layers that formed during the Jurassic period have moved and shaped the sea floor. The mineralization around the edge of the pool creates visually stunning “shorelines,” which combined with the warmer water, attract fish and crustaceans. While some sea creatures seem to know the dangers of entering the brine pool, additional images from Nautilus show how some animals’ curiosity proved to be fatal. Only extremophiles can survive in this type of environment. Giant mussels are capable of living in the toxic pool and feed off the hydrogen sulfide and methane gas emitted. Tube worms and shrimps also have adapted to the environment. The Ocean Exploration Trust, a nonprofit founded in 2009, uses the Nautilus to conduct underwater scientific research and showcases its expeditions to viewers on shore via live video, audio and data feeds. The group also invites educators and students to go on board the vessel for hands-on learning experiences. The research and exploration vessel is manned by 17 permanent crew members and is equipped with two ROVs, a data lab and a wet lab for processing digital data and physical samples. Researchers on board the Nautilus continue to unlock the mysteries of our oceans and reveal never-before-seen sites and creatures to the public. Just last month, scientists with the Ocean Exploration Trust were the first to discover 500 bubbling methane vents off the U.S. west coast. The find doubled the number of known vents that exist around the U.S. Another recent discovery went viral this summer when a live video feed from Nautilus captured footage of a googly-eyed purple squid roaming on the seafloor off the coast of California.
News Article | August 22, 2016
A rare sight was recently captured by scientists aboard a deep-sea exploration vessel: the skeleton of a fallen whale. Researchers say these bony remains provide a feast of nutrients for sea creatures, including bone-eating "zombie worms." Newly released video footage from the Exploration Vessel Nautilus shows the whale bones on the seafloor, in what researchers term a natural "whale fall." "Coming across a natural whale fall is pretty uncommon," a Nautilus researcher said in the video. "Most of the ones that have been studied have been sunk intentionally at a certain spot." [Extreme Life on Earth: 8 Bizarre Creatures] The ecological impacts of a whale fall are far-reaching. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), whale carcasses provide a "sudden, concentrated food source and a bonanza for organisms in the deep sea." Scavengers arrive on the scene first, consuming the soft tissue over the course of a few months, and the remaining detritus can enrich the ocean floor sediment for more than a year, NOAA said. The whale skeleton itself is also a rich supplier of resources — particularly for a type of parasitic creature often referred to as zombie worms (Osedax roseus) because they feast on the dead. "They burrow down into the bone and digest the lipids," a Nautlius researcher said in the video. According to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, the species was discovered feasting on a rotting gray whale carcass in 2002. In what could be considered an evolutionary hack to avoid searching for a mate, only female worms perform the necessary drilling to get to the fat within the bones. "The males live inside the females — sometimes 100 males to one female," Nautilus researchers said. Skeletons from whale falls also serve as a hard substrate for invertebrate colonization. "It almost looks like a type of anemone," the Nautlius researchers said, while observing a mysterious white orb on the whale's jawbone. Upon further inspection, though, the scientists said the orb was likely a coral making use of the surface. Based on the shape of the whale jaw, the researchers speculated it was a baleen species, and could have been a juvenile, based on its relatively small size. The new footage offers insights into the fate of a peculiar object that was spotted recently by an Australian fisherman. The strange, floating object turned out to be a bloated whale carcass, which scientists say will eventually result in a whale fall after it deflates and sinks to the seafloor. The Exploration Vessel Nautilus, a 210-foot-long (64 meters) research vessel operated by the Ocean Exploration Trust, is investigating the Southern California continental margin from July 24 to Aug. 12. Copyright 2016 LiveScience, a Purch company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.