Areas NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer will be visiting during its 2015 expedition to marine protected areas in the Pacific. (Credit: NOAA)

Starting this month, NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer began two months of dives using unmanned remotely operated vehicles, or ROVs, to explore marine protected areas in the central Pacific Ocean. Anyone with an internet connection can virtually explore the deep sea with scientists and researchers from their computer or mobile device. Live streaming video is available during each and every dive.

Deepwater coral and sponge garden found in the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. Images courtesy of NOAA-Hawaiʻi Undersea Research Library Archives. (Credit: NOAA)

“Given the unexplored nature of these areas, their remoteness and their known status as biodiversity hotspots, I’d be very surprised if we didn’t see many animals and phenomena that are new to science,” said expedition science team lead Christopher Kelley, associate professor of biology and program biologist at the Hawaiʻi Undersea Research Laboratory at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa.

The ship and its crew will investigate deeper waters in and around Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, Johnston Atoll in the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, and the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary.

Exploration Command Center on UH Mānoa campus

In the Hawaiʻi Institute of Geophysics Building at UH Mānoa, NOAA and UH Mānoa’s School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology established an Exploration Command Center—a location where live video feeds from the ship and ROVs are displayed and scientists on land can communicate with the ship-board team, enabling tele-presence collaboration.

This is the first expedition of a major three-year effort to systematically collect information to support science and management needs within and around the U.S. marine national monuments and NOAA’s national marine sanctuaries in the Pacific.

Read more about the current expedition in the NOAA press release.