On February 25, 2016, NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer embarked on a 23 day mission to explore uncharted ecosystems and seafloor in and around Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument (PMNM) off the coast of Hawai’i. The monument is one of the largest conservation areas in the world; over 139,797 square miles and is home to 7,000 species, a variety of geological features and a Japanese aircraft carrier lost during WWII.
The discovery of an unknown octopod - possibly a new species - has already caught the attention of the internet.
According to Athline Clark, PMNM superintendent for NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, "NOAA’s exploration efforts provide the information we need to properly protect the health and integrity of this precious ecosystem.“
The expedition includes 24-hour operations consisting of remotely operated vehicle (ROV) dives and mapping operations. All dives are being live-streamed so you can follow along!
Images Courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, 2016 Hohonu Moana.
The massive bleaching hitting the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia is likely that country’s “biggest ever environmental disaster,” says Dr. Justin Marshall, who has studied the reef for three decades.
“Before this mass bleaching started, we already were at the point of losing 50% of the coral cover on the Great Barrier Reef. This, I think, will probably take another 50% off what was left,” Marshall says.
Over the course of the last six months, Marshall and his colleagues with the citizen science project Coral Watch have documented the degradation of reef structures near Lizard Island, one of the worst-hit areas.
They photographed the same formations of coral multiple times, showing clearly the pace of the destruction.
“It was a beautiful, wonderful paradise of reef structure and animals, and it’s not there anymore. Or it is — but it’s a slime ball, it’s a gloomy place,” Marshall says.
Photos, from top: Photo (1) shows healthy coral. It’s then seen bleached (2). Photo (3) shows dead coral with a film of algae, which grows thicker in photo (4). The ominous final photo in the series shows bleached coral near Lizard Island showing heavy algal overgrowth. All photos by CoralWatch.
Iridogorgia are aptly named, the name means something like “gorgeous rainbow” or “splendid circle of colour”.
They’re deep sea corals made up of a stalk firmly attached to rock, which spirals upward. Lots of branches grow from the central coil and tiny polyps with their feeding tentacles emerge from the branches, looking like glittering sparks.
These are some of the biggest corals in the deep sea, with some reaching over 18 feet tall!
Given their slow rate of growth, big ones like that could be some 500 years old. So even if you’re fashionably late by a few centuries, you can still catch the show.