Expedition Overview: Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument
E/V Nautilus is conducting the first ever exploration of 10 seamounts located inside the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. Researchers are both interested in how this unusual chain of underwater mountains formed parallel to the Hawaiian Islands ridge, and whether these seamounts support vibrant coral and sponge communities like others in the region. Lead Scientists Dr. Christopher Kelley, University of Hawai’i, and Dr. Thomas Hourigan, NOAA Deep Sea Coral Research and Technology Program (DSCRTP), will be leading this expedition aboard Nautilus with Expedition Leader Allison Fundis, Ocean Exploration Trust. Research and expedition partners for this expedition include NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, University of Hawai’i, NOAA DSCRTP, and Oregon State University.
This expedition will involve mapping and subsequent ROV dives on enigmatic seamounts located in a poorly explored area of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument (PMNM). The objectives are to determine how and when these seamounts formed and to document the biological communities that presently live on them. The PMNM is the largest contiguous marine protected area in the United States. Deepwater research has been conducted for decades within the original boundaries of the monument, with areas within recently expanded boundaries remaining almost completely unexplored.