During Nautilus’ first-ever expedition to Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument (PMNM), the team surveyed two clusters of seamounts north of Gardner Pinnacles / ‘Ōnūnui,‘Ōnūiki and French Frigate Shoals/ Lalo. Before ROVs Hercules and Argus descended on these features in the Naifeh Seamount chain - the northwestern cluster of mountains - no human eyes had ever encountered these breathtaking and productive deep sea ecosystems and volcanic formations. Along with geologic samples from each of the five previously unexplored seamounts, our team documented previously undescribed life from depths of over 2000 meters. Species that could not be identified as known species from other locations within PMNM or around the Pacific were sampled, when allowed by permit conditions and will provide experts around the world specimens to study and describe for years ahead.
This expedition will involve mapping and subsequent ROV dives on enigmatic seamounts located in a poorly explored area of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument (PMNM). The objectives are to determine how and when these seamounts formed and to document the biological communities that presently live on them. The PMNM is the largest contiguous marine protected area in the United States. Deepwater research has been conducted for decades within the original boundaries of the monument, with areas within recently expanded boundaries remaining almost completely unexplored.