Researchers returned this morning from a 25 day exploration of the deep coral reefs within the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. They brought with them several colorful discoveries from the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument.
Randy Kosaki, the chief scientist for the expedition was excited by their findings. "What we recorded are over 50 types of fishes that have never been seen in the Hawaiian islands before. So we've increased the bio-diversity, the known bio-diversity of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands by almost 25%."
Another big discovery was a whole new type of coral reef habitat. Deep water algae beds serving as nurseries for the babies of those just discovered fishes."
And it's not just the juvenile fishes in the algae," said Kosaki. "But a lot of the algae themselves are new to science. Probably 10 of the types of algae we brought back represent new species and again that's almost unheard of to find 10 new species in one expedition."
Kosaki says the discoveries were made possible thanks to high tech scuba gear.. Rebreathers that allowed them to go deeper than ever before. Nearly 300 feet below the surface.
"This is an already an area that's thought of as a hotspot of biodiversity and what we've found is that it's basically hotter than we ever thought," said Kosaki.
Meanwhile back on land, a camera crew from OiwiTV was shooting video for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. Native Hawaii artist Solomon Enos described the landscape.
"Gardner pinnacles jutting up out of the ocean. You're surrounded by cool flowing water and then you have these dry hot pieces of earth jutting up. There's just so much contrast. It really is something. It's magical," said Enos.
The artist was invited to join the expedition and has already created 16 paintings to interpret what he saw.
"These individual pieces hopefully will then spawn or be like seeds or coral pollups that are going to spawn whole new reformations of ideas," said Enos.
The newly discovered specimens are already on their way to the University of Hawaii Botany Department and the Smithsonian Institution for examination.