glass sponges on the dark ocean floor

Glass sponges on the dark ocean floor.
Credit: NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, 2017 Laulima O Ka Moana

The NOAA’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science are currently leading an 18-day expedition aboard NOAA Ship Nancy Foster to map, survey, and sample deep-sea coral ecosystems from August 12 – 31, 2017, in the eastern Gulf of Mexico and the South Atlantic Bight. The photo above and video below though show an area the NOAA’s Okeanos Deep Discoverer remotely operated vehicle (ROV) discovered on July 25, 2017, 7,700 feet below the sea.  This bizarre deep-sea ‘forest’ scene was part of the Laulima O Ka Moana expedition: Exploring Deep Monument Waters around poorly known deepwater areas in the Johnston Atoll Unit of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, which wrapped up on August 2.  The Laulima O Ka Moana expedition is part of the 3-year CAPSTONE mission, in and around protected US marine areas to gather deepwater data in support of science and management decisions.

Scientists still know little about this Atoll region as more than 99 percent of this reserve is in very deep water.  The scientists made their discovery of this high-density glass sponge community after noting a change in current.  As the footage pans over the eerie scene, one of the researchers in the footage is heard saying:
“Every time we do these dives, all I can think about is, this is the type of experience someone would have if they found life on another planet.”

New Snailfish – This small wiggly tadpole like creature spotted on July 28 on the same expedition, at a staggering depth of more than 8,000 feet is a snailfish that can handle the pressure, and comes from the family Liparidae. According to National Geographic, deep sea snailfish are able to endure pressure approximately equivalent to 1,600 elephants standing on the roof of a small car.

new snailfish

Credit: (Video courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, 2017 Laulima O Ka Moana.)