Rob and Rich Prepare to Depart

Rob Whitton and Richard Pyle prepare to board the NOAA ship Hi’ialakai, bound for a month in the remote Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Photo by Richard L. Pyle.

It’s hard to imagine that it’s been a full year since our last visit to the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, in the remote Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Once again, Rob Whitton and I (representing Bishop Museum) join our friends from NOAA on our annual cruise aboard the R/V Hi’ialakai. This is my ninth visit to these islands (my sixth aboard Hi’ialakai), and our mission, as always, is to use advanced, mixed-gas diving technology to explore the deep coral reefs (200-300 feet; 60-90 meters). This ship will be our home for the rest of September. Unlike previous years, which focused on the islands, atolls and shallow reefs of this remote archipelago; this year our primary target are seamounts — ancient islands that now lie entirely submerged beneath the sea. We don’t know what we’ll find on these seamounts, but we’re all excited to see what’s down there!