Exploring Puerto Rico’s Seamounts, Trenches, and Troughs

Media Resources

This media resources page provides members of the media with information; resources; and broadcast-, print-, and web-quality imagery developed during the Océano Profundo 2015: Exploring Puerto Rico’s Seamounts, Trenches and Troughs expedition.

Beginning in February 2015, the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research will lead a three-leg expedition aboard NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer to explore unknown and poorly known deepwater regions around Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The ship will stop in San Juan between each leg.

On this page: Why? | Who? | Highlight Images and Videos | Press Releases | Background Info | Contact Info


This expedition will be some of the first deepwater exploration work ever conducted in targeted areas of the Caribbean, including the Puerto Rico Trench. We anticipate encountering deepwater habitats similar to what we have seen on other expeditions. In addition, we expect to improve understanding of seismic interactions in a tectonically active part of the ocean and gain knowledge about deepwater fisheries in the Caribbean.

It is important to explore this area for several reasons:

  • It is tectonically active, with seismic hazards
  • It includes a large section of U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone
  • One of the major fisheries in the area is deepwater snapper, but little is known about snapper populations there
  • It is of potential interest for marine protected area managers, those creating ocean usage planning maps, and sanctuary managers

The specific areas we will be exploring were identified by the ocean exploration community in 2013 as priorities for ocean exploration within the Caribbean region. The expedition will build on other exploration work done in the region by partners such as the Ocean Exploration Trust and NOAA National Ocean Service.

Interesting Highlights

Following two legs to collect baseline seafloor mapping data in targeted areas, the expedition will include approximately 20 remotely operated vehicle (ROV) dives, all of which will be live-streamed so scientists and the public can follow along. In addition, seafloor depth, bottom backscatter, water-column backscatter, sub-bottom profiles, and water temperature profile data will be collected with the ship’s sonars and XBT probes.

As one of the deepest places in the ocean, the Puerto Rico Trench offers opportunities for cutting-edge exploration of some of the least-understood habitats on the planet:

  • We will be conducting some of the first ROV work ever done around Puerto Rico in deep water (>500 meters).
  • We will be able to test our new (as of 2013) dual-body ROV system to its rated depth (up to 6,000 meters/~19,000 feet).
  • Mapping and dives will take place in 250-8,400 meters of water (820-27,500 feet).
  • We expect to map 25,000-30,000 square kilometers (9,500-11,000 square miles) of seafloor.
  • We will be conducting the first digital testing of the deepwater characteristics of the Puerto Rico Trench.


Activities during the third leg of the expedition will be primarily led by the four scientists listed below. They will coordinate input from multiple scientists participating from shore to plan dives, are the voices you hear on the live video feeds, and are primary participants in outreach events. For a full list of our on-ship team, please visit the Explorers page.

Andrea Quattrini

Andrea Quattrini

Science Co-Lead - Postdoctoral Researcher, U.S. Geological Survey Southeast Ecological Science Center

Dr. Quattrini is serving as the biological science lead during this expedition. She will help to coordinate the science objectives of both the shore-based and ship-based science teams during the exploration of poorly known deep-sea habitats around Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Dr. Quattrini is interested in how biodiversity is generated and maintained in the deep sea. Specifically, she focuses on the relative roles of habitat heterogeneity and dispersal in shaping deep-sea coral and fish communities. Since 2002, she has participated in 22 research cruises using deep-submergence vehicles; she also has extensive experience with telepresence-enabled cruises. Dr. Quattrini is currently a post-doctoral researcher at the U.S. Geological Survey Southeast Ecological Science Center, in Gainesville, Florida. She received a Ph.D. in biology from Temple University, an M.S. in marine biology from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, and a B.S. in biology from Millersville University.

Mike Cheadle

Mike Cheadle

Science Co-Lead - Associate Professor of Geology, University of Wyoming

Dr. Cheadle is serving as the geological science lead during this expedition. He will help to coordinate the science objectives of both the shore-based and ship-based science teams during the exploration of poorly known deep-sea habitats around Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Dr. Cheadle is a geologist/geophysicist who studies the creation of oceanic crust at mid-ocean ridges. He became interested in marine exploration midway through his career after realizing that ocean basins are one of the last great frontiers of exploration on Earth. Dr. Cheadle has sailed on many U.S.- and Japanese-led research cruises and has studied mid-ocean ridges in the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific oceans. He and his students have previously participated in Okeanos Explorer and Nautilus telepresence-enabled missions as on-shore scientists. Dr. Cheadle is an associate professor of geology at the University of Wyoming, in Laramie, Wyo. He holds a Ph.D. in geophysics from University of Cambridge, an M.S. in geophysics from Cornell University, and a B.A. in geology from Oxford University.

Lieutenant Brian Kennedy

Lieutenant Brian Kennedy

Expedition Coordinator - NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research

In his role as expedition coordinator, Lt. Kennedy is responsible for overseeing all aspects of an expedition, including arranging logistics, planning science operations, and coordinating public outreach. Since joining the NOAA Corps, he has participated in or led more than 25 expeditions of exploration that have taken him to two oceans (Atlantic and Pacific), three continents (North America, South America, and Asia), and through the waters of six countries (the U.S., Ecuador, Panama, Costa Rica, Honduras, and Indonesia). Originally from landlocked Athens, Georgia, Lt. Kennedy grew up fascinated with marine mammals and the ocean. He holds a B.S. in marine biology with a minor in marine geology from the College of Charleston, in South Carolina.  

Derek Sowers

Derek Sowers

Mapping Lead - Physical Scientist/Hydrographer, NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research

Mr. Sowers is a physical scientist/hydrographer with the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research. During at-sea expeditions, he leads sonar data collection by planning the ship’s mapping routes and producing maps of seafloor and water column features to guide exploration. On shore, Mr. Sowers works at the Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping/Joint Hydrographic Center at the University of New Hampshire to coordinate future mapping expeditions, process and archive data, and collaborate with other scientists. He has 14 years of previous coastal research and management experience, including with NOAA’s National Estuarine Research Reserve network and the Environmental Protection Agency's National Estuary Program, in both Oregon and New Hampshire. Mr. Sowers has participated in ocean research expeditions in the Arctic Ocean, Gulf of Maine, Gulf of Mexico, Pacific Northwest continental shelf, North Atlantic Canyons, and New England Seamounts. He holds a B.S. in environmental science from the University of New Hampshire and an M.S. in marine resource management from Oregon State University. He is also a part-time oceanography Ph.D. student focused on using Extended Continental Shelf and Okeanos Explorer data to develop marine ecological classification maps.

Highlight Video and Images

Dive highlight videos, short video clips, and photos for the Océano Profundo: Exploring Puerto Rico's Seamounts, Trenches and Troughs 2015 expedition will be posted on this page as they are available.

Access LIVE video feeds here.

For videos and images from our Puerto Rico Trench 2003 expedition, which took place near the areas we will be exploring this year, visit this page.

Press Releases

Important Background Information

  • NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer is America’s ship for ocean exploration. The NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research (OER) is coordinating the mission on the ship, which is operated by the NOAA Office of Marine and Aviation Operations. OER is the only federal program dedicated to systematically exploring the ocean.
  • Anyone with an Internet can follow the expedition — LIVE. The same technology that allows scientists around the world to participate in the expedition from shore also enables interested members of the public to experience deep-sea exploration, the wonder of discovery, and the fascination of science in real time through the Internet. Additionally, mission logs, daily updates, and multimedia elements will be added to the website throughout the ROV leg to keep everyone up to speed.
  • Wise management of ocean resources is critical, but we can’t manage what we don’t know — and that’s why we explore. Even as the importance of deep areas of the ocean in our everyday lives continues to increase, our knowledge of these areas remains limited. In many instances, humans are “flying blind” when it comes to things such as regulation and resource use in deepwater areas. OER provides information from some of the most inaccessible parts of the ocean to scientists and resource managers, giving experts access to basic information about the habitats and life forms found there and enabling them to make management decisions and prioritize future research efforts.
  • The ocean is important to our survival, yet remains poorly understood. The ocean plays a role in the air we breathe, the food we eat, and the transportation of the goods we buy--not to mention weather and climate change. Many fisheries are based in deep waters, as are new sites for offshore energy production and deep-sea mining. The deep sea may also hold cures to diseases. How will we know what is out there if we aren’t looking for it?
  • Data collected on NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer is quality assured and then made quickly available to the scientists and the public. Collected data is used by scientists and resource managers to plan follow-on research, make management decisions, detect natural hazards, improve nautical charts, enhance climate models, and more. In addition, our data is preserved for applications that have not even been thought of yet.
  • Mapping is the first step of ocean exploration. Having the maps done beforehand allows us to best plan ROV dives (Leg 3). Between the second and third legs of the expedition, the academic community and habitat/resource managers will have the opportunity to review collected mapping data and weigh in on and suggest potential dive sites, which will be decided on in consensus-building series of discussions.

Contact Information

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