From Shore to the Abyss
Launching in 2022, the From Shore to the Abyss Program expands OET’s ocean exploration program from the deep sea into coastal coral ecosystems lending our ship and research experience to contribute to new discoveries focused on the conservation of reefs and generation of new knowledge. The program in 2022 will focus on the lower-half of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands within Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument — the largest marine protected area in the US. The areas surrounding many of the islands and atolls have not been mapped. Seafloor topography is fundamental to understanding the environment as it lays the foundation for everything else.
Located NW of the state of Hawaiʻi, the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands span 1,200 nautical miles and contain dozens of islands, atolls, and shoals of volcanic origins with carbonate reef fringes. These waters and lands have rich ancient and modern cultural connections for the Native Hawaiian people and the area’s ecosystems still have much remaining to be discovered. Researchers continue to find new species amongst the foundational reefs that host more than 7,000 species, including marine mammals, fishes, sea turtles, birds, and invertebrates. At least one quarter of organisms are endemic, found nowhere else on Earth and many are rare, threatened, or endangered.
This series of expeditions will involve deepwater mapping efforts sponsored by the Ocean Exploration Cooperative Institute in addition to shallow water research sponsored by the National Geographic Society. The mapping surveys will take place overnight and will focus on areas within PMNM that have not previously been mapped at high-resolution. During daylight hours, National Geographic Society Explorers and research teams will conduct a variety of projects including coral reef, fish, and shark biodiversity surveys; acoustic recordings of the underwater soundscapes of PMNM; surveys for microplastic concentrations within the monument; 3D photogrammetry of archeological sites; and Indigenous data sovereignty.
This expedition is funded by NOAA Ocean Exploration via the Ocean Exploration Cooperative Institute as well as the National Geographic Society.