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MESA Archives: Deep Water Corals Cruise, July 24 - August 8, 2004

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Jason II
Jason II. Photo courtesy of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Click image for more information.
 
Jason II electrical engineer Chris Taylor sits before a bank of video panels and controls in the Deep Submergence control van. When Jason II is diving, researchers work shifts to observe the video feed and direct the technical team members who pilot the vehicle and control its collecting arms. A single dive may last more than 24 hours. Click image for more information.
 
A group of deepsea brittle stars in the genus Astrophiura, retrieved from the bottom of the North Pacific Ocean. Click image for more information (off site).
 
The unique appearance of a "Dumbo" octopus (possibly Grimpoteuthis) was an unexpected and exciting sight on the Jason II dive the evening of July 30. Click image for more information.

Scientists Explore Aleutian Islands Coral Habitats

(PLEASE NOTE: These web pages are for archival purposes only and are no longer maintained. For current information please refer to the MESA homepage.)

Scientists from the Auke Bay Laboratory (ABL) used the deep-diving, remotely operated vehicle Jason II to study corals near Alaska's Aleutian Islands as they continued their exploration of the terrain and of the species that form an ecosystem on the ocean floor. 

On board the research vessel Roger Revelle, a collaborative team of scientists along with science reporter Sonya Senkowsky departed Dutch Harbor July 24 on a 1,000 mile cruise, providing daily updates of their investigations, including

  • Daily logs and guest journal entries
  • Underwater photos of marine species and habitat
  • Audio and video reports as the cruise progresses

Since 1996, scientists at the Auke Bay Laboratory have been conducting research on the effects of fishing gear on benthic habitat. The initial discovery of the coral and sponge habitats fueled worldwide interest as well as debate about the degree to which such habitats need special protection from fishing methods--such as trawling and longlining--which use gear that contacts the ocean bottom.

Two years ago, Auke Bay Laboratory researchers documented the Aleutian Islands' colorful undersea coral gardens. In 2002 and in following years, Auke Bay Laboratory biologists used an occupied submersible to explore areas around the Andreanof Islands and on Petrel Bank in the Bering Sea. Going to depths of 365 meters, scientists found habitats of coral, sponges and other invertebrates previously undocumented in the North Pacific Ocean or Bering Sea.

The deepest dive of this cruise is planned to go to a depth of 2,750 meters (about 1.7 miles) using the Jason II. The remotely operated vehicle will be used to record video and collect samples of corals, rock, and other specimens.

The focus of the cruise is to learn more about the deeper Aleutian coral habitats, including documenting their location and depth.

The Jason II mission was funded by the University of Alaska-based West Coast & Polar Regions Undersea Research Center, one of six regional centers in NOAA's Undersea Research Program. Jason II is operated by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Woods Hole, Mass. This cruise  represent the farthest north that Jason II, or any of the organization's remotely operated vehicles, has ever ventured, according to the Woods Hole Deep Submergence Lab.

More information on the deep water corals cruise is available at http://www.alaskascienceoutreach.com/coralsite/index.html with funding through the North Pacific Research Board. (Links to resources outside the Federal Government are provided as a convenience and for informational purposes only and should not be construed as an endorsement or approval by the NMFS/AFSC of information provided through other sites and computer systems.)


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