Dual-Technology Seafloor Mapping in PMNM
This expedition focuses on high-resolution mapping areas of Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument (PMNM) currently lacking data using ship-based mapping surveys in deep waters as well as deploying the uncrewed surface vessel DriX for nearshore mapping. Acquiring this data will equip resource managers with a better understanding of the formation of deep-water and shallow-water terrain of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands contribute new data to nautical charts and improve safe navigation in these areas and the national and international priority to build high-resolution maps of the seafloor, especially in areas needing protection. This expedition will focus on the southern end of PMNM, between the islands of Nihoa and Pūhāhonu (Gardner Pinnacles).
Since scientific exploration has not been conducted in this expansion region, we must first map the seamounts to provide detailed visualization of the targeted features. Information collected during this expedition will help to determine summit depths and pinpoint future dive sites for our team. This expedition contributes to the National Ocean Mapping, Exploration, and Characterization Council (NOMEC) and GEBCO Seabed 2030 seafloor mapping priorities. Both efforts to build complete maps of the seafloor require dedicated surveying efforts, particularly in remote areas to meet these goals within the next decade. 97% of the seafloor >3000 m depth in the PMNM and Pacific Remote Islands is currently unmapped.
As we visit Papahānaumokuākea, the ancestral homeland of the Native Hawaiian people and the largest marine conservation area in the US, we gratefully acknowledge generations of indigenous Hawaiians and today’s stewards of these waters. OET is working closely with PMNM collaborators to inform research priorities at sea and from shore, ensure culturally-grounded collection protocols, and connect with local communities through ship-to-shore connections and development of education resources in ‘Ōlelo Hawaiʻi (Hawaiian language). All of these efforts support opportunities to work with Native Hawaiians and to perpetuate the cultural values, knowledge, and practices of their cultural heritage while advancing modern science and exploration together.
This expedition is funded by NOAA Ocean Exploration via the Ocean Exploration Cooperative Institute along with the NOAA Office of Coast Survey.