Submarine Volcanoes and a Hydrothermal Field
New submarine volcanoes, a large hydrothermal field with a thriving exotic animal ecosystem and areas rich
with deep-sea ocean animals are among the discoveries reported today by U.S. and Indonesian scientists who
explored the largely unknown deep Sulawesi Sea last summer off the coast of Indonesia.
At an American Geophysical Union press conference in San Francisco, scientists explained that while the exploration
area is recognized as one of the Earth's major shallow water centers of marine diversity, little was known about the
marine life inhabiting its deep areas until this mission.
Mapping Kawio Barat: An Undersea Volcano
"This expedition was exciting and productive in many respects," said Sugiarta Wirasantosa, Ph.D., of the Indonesia
Agency for Marine and Fisheries Research and Indonesia's chief scientist for the expedition. "The joint science team
mapped Kawio Barat, an active undersea volcano that rises nearly 12,000 feet from the seafloor, and the mission
revealed that high marine diversity extends deep in the area, but that there is a different mix of diversity between
the shallow and deep ocean."
Biodiversity in the "Coral Triangle"
"Within the 'Coral Triangle,' a 2.3 million-square-mile area (6 million square km) in which the Sulawesi is included,
more than 65 percent of the world's reef-forming coral species are known to exist in shallow waters," said Santiago
Herrera, a graduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
who participated in the expedition. "We observed and imaged perhaps 40 potential new coral species and 50 potential
new species of other animals, including those inhabiting an actively venting volcano. Documenting the abundance,
biodiversity and distribution of deep-ocean animals will allow us to better understand the functioning of the
ecosystems in the area and infer how resilient they are to human activities."
The ocean exploration partnership matured in the wake of President Obama's speech in June 2009 in Cairo when he spoke
of building partnerships to support science and technological development in Muslim-majority countries. This expedition
was the first in a multiyear plan for Indonesia and the United States to explore marine environments together as part
of a larger partnership that foresees NOAA, Indonesia's Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries, and Indonesia's
Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology partnering on issues of mutual interest including ocean
exploration, fisheries and food security, climate change and tsunami research, among other areas.
Maiden Voyage of the Okeanos Explorer
The 2010 expedition was the maiden voyage of NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer, which worked with the Indonesian Research
Vessel Baruna Jaya IV. U.S. and Indonesian scientists worked side-by-side on both ships as well as in shore-based
Exploration Command Centers in Jakarta and Seattle where they received information in real-time via satellite and
high-speed Internet2 pathways, including high-definition video of the seafloor from the Okeanos Explorer's remotely
operated vehicles. Other scientists were on call ashore to assess the data, information and images as needed. At
other Exploration Command Centers, including one in Silver Spring, Md., and one at The Inner Space Center at the
University of Rhode Island in Kingston, live video came in from sea via telepresence technology and engaged a
variety of audiences ashore.
"Our partnership to explore the ocean and to share knowledge and technology advances science while building and
strengthening the friendship between our nations," said Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D., the U.S. under secretary for oceans
and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. "We look forward to further cooperation next summer when the NOAA Ship Okeanos
Explorer is scheduled to return to Indonesia to continue this mission."
Indonesia: A Nation of 17,000 Islands
"It's especially important for Indonesians to better understand our ocean," said Sugiarta. "Indonesia is a nation of
17,000 islands with a population that depends largely on the ocean for safety and on ocean resources for food, trade
and economic well-being. Measurements of the flow of deep water masses through the deep Sulawesi Sea will help us better
understand the 'Indonesian Throughflow,' which is important to all because it plays a major role in the global distribution
of heat transported by ocean currents."
Recent Volcanic Activity at 6,200 Feet
"We had a fantastic view of the summit area of Kawio Barat and the features we saw strongly suggest very recent volcanic
activity at 6,200 feet (1,900 meters)," said David Butterfield, PhD., a scientist with NOAA's Pacific Marine Environmental
Laboratory in Seattle. "Seeing an eruption at Kawaio Barat is a priority for future observations. Although 70 percent of
Earth's volcanic activity takes place under the ocean surface, researchers have only observed active eruptions by two undersea volcanoes."
The application of telepresence technology for ocean science and exploration and for education and outreach was first envisioned
by Robert Ballard, Ph.D., who partnered with NOAA to develop and refine the technology to bring the excitement of discovery in
real time to audiences ashore. Expedition scientists on this latest mission believe that high-definition video transmitted from
the deep sea to scientists ashore in real time provided a significant step forward in identifying marine animals, geologic features
and other aspects of the deep regions of the Sulawesi Sea.
"In an incredible extension of telepresence technology, live images from the seafloor also went for the first time to scientists
ashore beyond Exploration Command Centers," said NOAA scientist Steve Hammond, Ph.D., the expedition's U.S. chief scientist.
"One scientist at the University of Victoria shared the live seafloor video with her ocean science students and took still frames
from the video to email to other ocean experts who could help with identifications. We had scientists of many disciplines in
numerous locations all sharing comments in an online chat room as they viewed live video," he said. "All those comments are
time-coded to the video for further reference and research."
Expedition Partnership and Support
Sea World Indonesia in Jakarta and the Exploratorium in San Francisco were education partners in the expedition. A chronicle
of the expedition, including logs and images from sea, is available online.
Celebrating 10 years of ocean exploration, NOAA's Office of Ocean Exploration and Research uses state-of-the-art technologies
to explore the Earth's largely unknown ocean in all its dimensions for the purpose of discovery and the advancement of knowledge.
NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer is operated, managed and maintained by NOAA's Office of Marine and Aviation Operations, which includes
commissioned officers of the NOAA Corps and civilian wage mariners. NOAA's Office of Ocean Exploration and Research is responsible
for operating the cutting-edge ocean exploration systems on the vessel. It is the only federal ship dedicated to systematic exploration
of the planet's largely unknown ocean.
NOAA's mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun,
and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Find us online and on Facebook.
| The white outline on the map shows the operating area where both Indonesian Research Vessel Baruna Jaya IV and NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer conducted joint operations in 2010. The expedition focused on the diversity and distribution of deep sea habitats and marine life in unknown ocean areas in SATAL - a contraction of Sangihe and Talaud - two island chains stretching northeast of North Sulawesi in Indonesia. Image courtesy of NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research.
|Hydrothermal vents were found during the second ROV dive on Kawio Barat volcano. The yellow deposits are molten sulfur
and multiple species of hot-vent shrimp are also visible. Image courtesy of NOAA Okeanos Explorer Program, INDEX-SATAL 2010.
|Close-up imagery showing a type of goose-neck barnacle, shrimp and a scaleworm living more than 1,850 meters deep on Kawio Barat underwater volcano.
Image courtesy of NOAA Okeanos Explorer Program.
|Bubblegum coral, or paragorgiidae, is among the potential new species encountered by the deep sea expedition.
Image courtesy of NOAA Okeanos Explorer Program, INDEX-SATAL 2010.