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The Mysteries of the Gulf of Mexico: Brought to You by NOAA

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Towards the end of the first dive, we found a carbonate outcrop inhabited with the chemosynthtic mussel Bathymodiolus sp. These mussels appeared to be encased in methane hydrate, formed by methane gas conglomerating at their base.

Bubbles of gas escaping from the seafloor. Delicate corals, dancing sea cucumbers, weird fish. Sunken shipwrecks holding unknown treasures. A bursting mud volcano or clear underwater river. Think you have to watch cable to see this stuff? Think again.

Between now and April 30, the Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will be exploring the depths of the Gulf of Mexico from NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer and we invite you to follow the action and discovery – LIVE. Today, the ship is currently launching the Deep Discoverer remotely operated vehicle to dive in Keathley Canyon at site KC3. Keathley Canyon is a narrow, steep-walled canyon south of the Flower Garden Banks on the continental slope. We’ll be exploring at locations in the canyon that transect canyon slopes and along the adjacent floor, looking for brine flows and hardbottom habitats.

Using satellite and high-speed Internet pathways, live seafloor video from cameras on the Deep Discoverer remotely operated vehicle and Seirios camera sled and lighting platform is streamed to scientists around the world, allowing them to participate virtually. This means the number of scientists who can provide input and conduct “at-sea” research isn’t limited by the space available on the ship. And, these same live video feeds are available online 24/7, so that anyone, anywhere can follow the exploration.

Despite its importance to U.S. national energy, food, transportation, and recreational economies, and despite decades of exploration, significant gaps remain in our basic understanding of the deep Gulf of Mexico. In determining which sites to visit during the Gulf of Mexico 2014 Expedition, NOAA’s Office of Ocean Exploration and Research received input from more than 40 scientists from across the federal government, a fisheries management council, and multiple academic institutions. They identified areas where information gained from exploration is most needed to better manage and protect Gulf resources.

When you follow along online, you’ll watch as we explore cold seeps, deep coral communities, undersea canyons, shipwrecks, and more. And while the video is definitely “cool,” information gained through this and other deep-sea expeditions can help fill gaps in knowledge about the 95 percent of our ocean that remains unexplored. What we learn through ocean exploration and research is foundational to establishing the baseline environmental intelligence needed to forecast future environmental conditions, build community resilience, and inform the decisions we confront every day.

To learn more about the Gulf expedition, you can access daily updates, mission logs, highlight photos and videos, maps and collected data, and educational materials. You can also follow the expedition on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to keep up-to-date on the latest dive plans, operations, and discoveries.

So get ready to dive in and be a virtual ocean explorer: Watch live as scientists explore the unknown and prepare to witness active scientific exploration and discovery of America's underwater territory.

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