Discoveries from previously unexplored depths within the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument and Johnston Atoll

Remotely operated vehicle (ROV) Deep Discoverer places a piece of an unknown Corallium species collected at 2,078 meters depth in one of the bio boxes on the ROV. Image courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, 2015 Hohonu Moana.

From August to September 2015 the NOAA ship Okeanos Explorer was surveying previously unexplored depths around the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument (PMNM) and Johnston Atoll. One of their goals was to identify and characterize deep-sea coral and sponge communities, some of which could be unknown to science. Scientists onboard (Chris Kelley, Scott France, Daniel Wagner and Mackenzie Gerringer) with the assistance of scientists from around the world identified specimens that were of particular scientific interest. Using remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) the team collected roughly 90 specimens of corals, sponges and other invertebrates that are either new to species of new records to the region.

Farrea nr occa erecta sponge found ~2,660 meters deep at McCall Seamount. This species has two types of morphologies – a bushy type and a stalked type (shown here). A fairly large number of dead colonies of this sponge were observed during the dive – this was the only live sponge of this type encountered. Image courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, 2015 Hohonu Moana.

In December 2015, 46 of those specimens were deposited here at the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum where they will join the nearly 35,000 cataloged lots of invertebrate specimens databased and stored for future research. More information about the expeditions including video, photos, data, and other educational material can be found on their site,

Daniel Wagner, a scientist with the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, gingerly removes a deep coral from the collection basket on the Deep Discoverer remotely operated vehicle. Image courtesy of Art Howard/NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, 2015 Hohonu Moana.

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