Deep Sea Biodiversity & Ancient Seamount Exploration near Johnston Atoll
In August 2023, we will return to the Central Pacific for 27 days of exploration within the Johnston Atoll Unit of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument (PRIMNM), starting and ending in Honolulu. Complimenting exploration achievements from last season, the ship will now explore a region of ancient seamounts northwest of Johnston Atoll utilizing ROV dives and mapping surveys. This year, we’re bringing along USV DriX from the University of New Hampshire to advance our multi-vehicle explorations and acquire high-resolution bathymetric maps gaining coverage of this previously poorly explored ocean region. By operating DriX independently from E/V Nautilus for up to several days at a time, this expedition will aim to increase the pace of mapping operations.
With the 2014 expansion of PRIMNM, the Monument expanded to become what is now the second-largest marine protected area in the United States. While recent expeditions have increased our baseline knowledge of the deep-water resources of PRIMNM, large areas remain completely unexplored, particularly towards the northern boundary of the Johnston Unit of PRIMNM. Further exploration in these areas is urgently needed to address deep-water habitat scientific knowledge gaps, as a management plan is under development now for the region.
This 27-day expedition is funded by NOAA Ocean Exploration via the Ocean Exploration Cooperative Institute.