Photo album:

Abundance of Life on the Slopes of Voyager Seamounts

Thousands of meters below the surface of the Pacific Ocean in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, there is no sunlight. The water temperature is just a few degrees above freezing. The pressure is hundreds of times greater than at the surface. What could possibly be expected to survive, let alone thrive, in these conditions?

The Corps of Exploration investigated this question during the Luʻuaeaāhikiikapapakū Expedition by deploying ROVs Hercules and Argus to visit the depths of the monument, carefully observed ridges of several of the Voyager Seamounts south of the Hawaiian chain to document the biodiversity found there. During ROV dives, the cameras revealed massive coral forests and sponge gardens, vibrant communities of varying density and diversity subsisting only on nutrients that are carried by currents into these cold, dark depths.

This expedition was sponsored by NOAA Ocean Exploration through the Ocean Exploration Cooperative Institute and NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries.