Windows to the Deep 2019: Exploration of the Deep-sea Habitats of the Southeastern United States

Mission Logs

Follow along as participants in the cruise provide updates and reflections on their experiences, the science, the technology, and other elements of the expedition.

  • Expedition Summary

    May 30 - July 12, 2019

    Expedition map

    Windows to the Deep 2019: Exploration of the Deep-sea Habitats of the Southeastern United States was a 38-day, two-leg, telepresence-enabled expedition on NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer to collect data on priority exploration areas identified by the ocean management and scientific communities.

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  • The 100th NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer Mission Visits New Methane Plumes Where the U.S. Atlantic Seeps Story Began

    July 12, 2019  |  By Carolyn Ruppel, Adam Skarke, and Shannon Hoy

    Dense patches of live Bathymodiolus childressi mussels and associated bacterial mats are indicators of fluid seepage.

    On the final remotely operated vehicle (ROV) dive of Windows to the Deep 2019, NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer’s 100th ocean exploration mission, the ROV Deep Discoverer (D2) explored the seafloor around recently discovered methane plumes near the well-studied Norfolk Seeps, the location where the U.S. Atlantic seeps story first began in 2012. This was a fitting location to conclude the Windows in the Deep 2019 expedition as the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research (OER) celebrates its 10th year of ocean exploration.

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  • Welcome and Bon Voyage to Commanding Officer Manning!

    July 11, 2019  |  By Rachel Gulbraa

    Commander Nicole Manning, the sixth Commanding Officer of NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer.

    On June 16, Commander (CDR) Nicole Manning became the sixth Commanding Officer of NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer. A NOAA Corps Officer, CDR Manning will be in command of the ship for the next two years. She was able to take a short break from her duties to answer some questions and share a little bit about her experiences and her role.

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  • Unforeseen Abundance of Deep-sea Coral Habitat

    July 9, 2019  |  By Laura Anthony and Heather Coleman

    Alfonsino fish (commercially important species) swimming over a field of Lophelia pertusa.

    Twice during the Windows to the Deep 2019 expedition, on days when we hoped to find a seep or a shipwreck, we instead encountered spectacular deep-sea coral and sponge habitat off the coast of Florida. Operations during this expedition have taken NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer both inside and outside the Stetson-Miami Terrace Deepwater Coral Habitat Area of Particular Concern (HAPC), and the team has discovered mounds of reef-building corals no one ever dreamed of. What a way to ring in Habitat Month 2019!

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  • Discoveries at a Methane Seep Field Offshore Bodie Island, North Carolina

    July 7, 2019  |  By Carolyn Ruppel, Adam Skarke, and Shannon Hoy

    Two bubble streams emanating from relatively bare seafloor and framed by D2 during the Bodie Island seeps dive.
    Bathymodiolus mussels and white bacterial mat on dramatic relief created by authigenic carbonate boulders at one of the seep sites explored during the Bodie Island dive.

    During Dive 14 of the Windows to the Deep 2019 expedition, NOAA’s remotely operated vehicle (ROV) Deep Discoverer, also known as D2, explored cold seeps arrayed along a ridge located about 62 kilometers (39 miles) offshore Bodie Island, North Carolina. These methane seeps had never before been visited by autonomous, remotely operated, or human-occupied vehicles, and scientists were excited to watch as D2 made new discoveries during its progress up the ridge.

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  • Exploring the Twilight Zone

    July 6, 2019  |  By Herbert Leavitt

    Herbert Leavitt processing cores

    Herbert Leavitt, a NOAA Hollings Undergraduate Scholar with the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, shares his experiences getting involved in the exciting work of deep-sea exploration on multiple levels. Through the scholarship program, his internship this summer is research oriented, while still exposing him to the many facets of the organization’s mission, including communication and outreach.

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  • Dive 13: Fish Egg Buffet

    July 5, 2019  |  By Scott France

    Crab eating fish eggs

    During Dive 13, at 920 meters (3,018 feet) depth, we came upon a Chaceon crab perched above a white patch on the seafloor. A closer look revealed the patch to be a cluster of hundreds of eggs, proposed to have been deposited on the rock by a pallid sculpin. As we watched, the crab plucking eggs from the pile with its major chelipeds (clawed legs) and eating them. Furthermore, we observed dozens of amphipods (distant crustacean relatives of the crab) clinging to and crawling over the crab’s mouthparts.

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  • A FIVE Star Salute for the Fourth of July!

    July 4, 2019  |  By Chris Mah

    Plinthaster dentatus - the spongivorous cookie star!
    Brittle star

    To celebrate our country’s star-spangled Independence day, check out these FIVE species of star-shaped echinoderms (mostly sea stars) to commemorate discovery and the 4th of July!

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  • Importance of Mapping and Characterizing the Deepwaters of the United States

    July 2, 2019  |  By Katharine Egan

    A survey area on the Central Blake Plateau, mapped during the first leg of the Windows to the Deep 2019 expedition.

    During the first leg of the Windows to the Deep 2019 expedition, we conducted 24-hour mapping operations in deepwater areas offshore of the southeastern United States. After 17 days at sea, we ended the mission with new multibeam bathymetry maps of areas of the Blake Plateau. Mapping operations involved the use of the ship’s deepwater mapping systems to collect baseline seafloor and water column data.

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  • Search for SS Bloody Marsh

    June 29, 2019  |  By Mike Brennan

    An archived image of an empty lifeboat from the sinking of the Bloody Marsh in 1943.

    Between 1942 and 1943, Germany sent a fleet of U-boats to the shores of the United States to target merchant shipping vessels resupplying Europe. During this time, numerous oil tankers and freighters were sunk, many in deep water, that today have still yet to be located. One of these was SS Bloody Marsh, sunk on July 2, 1943 by U-66.

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  • Dive 07: Oh My Grouper, Look at that Shark

    June 28, 2019  |  By Peter J. Auster

    Sharks eating a dead swordfish

    Towards the end of the Dive 07, after searching for a potential shipwreck target approximately 80 miles off the coast of South Carolina and instead finding a series of rocky outcrops, the Windows to the Deep 2019 expedition team had a rare encounter – a group of sharks in what looked to be a feeding frenzy appeared in the dim reaches of remotely operated vehicle Deep Discoverer's lights. Upon closer approach, the lights revealed a dead swordfish, approximately 2.5 meters (8 feet) in length, lying on the seafloor with at least 11 sharks circling and feeding “vigorously” on the swordfish's skin and muscle tissue.

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  • Happy Cephalopod Week!

    June 28, 2019  |  By Emily Crum

    Ghostly Octopus

    In honor of #CephalopodWeek (and #OctopusFriday!), below is a collection of some of our most-memorable sightings of these highly intelligent, mobile, and charismatic invertebrates, made over the course of exploring from the Okeanos. Enjoy!

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  • A Ship Tour of a Different Kind

    June 26, 2019  |  By Debi Blaney

    Octonauts and NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer

    As you follow along on the Windows to the Deep 2019 expedition and watch the dives live, are you curious how NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer is involved in making these operations possible? Ever wondered how we are able to feed 49 people for three weeks at sea? Want an exclusive peek inside the ship’s control room? Then join us for a tour of NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer!

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  • Dive 05: Twirling Jelly

    June 25, 2019  |  By Mike Ford

    A charismatic swimming jelly called a helmet jelly that was twisting and tumbling as it moved across remotely operated vehicle Deep Discoverer’s field of view.

    During Dive 05 of the Windows to the Deep 2019 expedition, we encountered a charismatic swimming jelly called a helmet jelly that was twisting and tumbling as it moved across remotely operated vehicle Deep Discoverer’s field of view. With a characteristic groove encircling its swimming bell, the helmet jelly is classified as a coronate scyphomedusa, with a scientific name of Periphylla periphylla.

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  • Overview of Remotely Operated Vehicle Deep Discoverer’s New Suction Sampler

    June 24, 2019  |  By Karl McLetchie and J Dunn

    A squat lobster was sampled around 722 meters (2,369 feet) using the suction sampler during the first dive of the Windows to the Deep 2019 expedition.

    Windows to the Deep 2019 is the first live-streamed expedition during which the remotely operated vehicle Deep Discoverer (D2) will use its new suction sampler. A suction sampler is an underwater vacuum for collecting biological samples that are too small, too delicate, or too quick to pick up using the jaws of D2’s hydraulic manipulator. Some of these deep-sea animals could include pelagic animals, fish, and other mobile fauna, like squat lobsters.

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  • Dive 03: Happy Healthy Corals

    June 23, 2019  |  By Les Watling

    When someone mentions deep-sea corals, most people think of something like what they might see on a tropical shallow coral reef. But many deep-sea corals, like the colonies in this video, are more closely related to tropical sea fans than to the corals that create the structure of the reef.

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  • Dive 02: The Mighty Black Coral

    June 22, 2019  |  By Tina N. Molodtsova

    Black coral

    Black corals, or antipatharians, seen during the second dive of the Windows to the Deep 2019 expedition. These fascinating corals belong to the genus Leiopathes, and the species of this genus have proved to be extremely long living.

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  • Celebrating 100 Exploration Missions Aboard NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer

    June 22, 2019  |  By Craig Russell

    This sponge is the largest sponge documented to date, close to 3.7 meters (12 feet long) and 2.1 meters (7 feet) wide, comparable in size to a minivan.

    This week, NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer, with a dedicated team both aboard and on shore, sets sail on its 100th ocean exploration mission. It is fitting that this milestone expedition to explore the deep and mostly unexplored ocean off the southeastern United States begins at the hub of our nation’s space exploration program – Cape Canaveral, Florida.

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  • From Planning to Execution

    June 20, 2019  |  By Kasey Cantwell

    Multibeam bathymetry collected during leg 1 of this expedition offshore the southeastern United States revealed several interesting features that will be investigated via remotely operated vehicle exploration during Leg 2.

    June 20 marked the first day of the Windows to the Deep 2019 expedition and NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer’s 100th ocean exploration mission! Over the years, there have been many highlights that millions of people around the world have joined us for, but few know how we determine where we go and what we do when we get there. Planning for a mission of this nature starts months in advance, with much of the initial framework developed years prior.

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