Off the coasts of the islands of Tutuila, Ta’u, Ofu-Olosega in American Samoa lies an underwater world that few human eyes have beheld. Home to thousands of species of deep-water corals, sponges, fishes, and invertebrates, the waters in and around the National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa represent one of the most biologically diverse regions in the world. During the Nautilus’ time in the sanctuary, researchers aboard the vessel acquired baseline information on deep-sea and mesophotic habitats by collecting samples that represent rare and potentially new marine organisms in these hard-to-reach ecosystems.
No light can penetrate beyond the mesophotic zone occurring at depths 150 meters and deeper. Here, organisms feature a wide variety of special adaptations that help them successfully survive in some of the most remote stretches of the planet.