While it’s easy to get excited by the colorful corals, sea cucumbers, and sea stars scattered across deep seamounts, the sponges of the deep sea always leave scientists and crew in awe with their delicate features, bright white colors, and odd shapes. We explored 5 unnamed seamounts during the Luʻuaeaahikiikekualonokai expedition, characterizing the different benthic fauna that use these ancient volcanoes as habitat. Nutrients can be hard to come by at these 1700-3800 meter depths, but as water passes through deep sea sponges elaborate structures, they are able to filter feed, trapping any food that may be passing by.
Located south of the Hawaiian Islands, Chautauqua Seamount and the un-named seamount chain comprises seven seamounts measuring between 15 and 25 kilometers across and rising more than 2 kilometers from the 4-kilometer deep abyssal seafloor. Aside from sparse bathymetric and geophysical surveys, these underwater mountains are unsurveyed by ROVs or high-resolution seafloor mapping.