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Hawaii vessel embarks on odyssey to explore life 2 miles below the ocean’s surface

As of Wednesday, the group was nearing Johnston Atoll for a 26-day exploration of the seafloor and its undiscovered species.
Published: Jun. 22, 2022 at 4:47 PM HST|Updated: Jun. 22, 2022 at 5:07 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A team of researchers is on a mission to uncover the mysteries of the Pacific.

The Nautilus Expedition Vessel left Honolulu a few days ago.

And as of Wednesday, the group was nearing Johnston Atoll for a 26-day exploration of the seafloor and its undiscovered species.

“We really are visiting environments that have never been explored before and in some cases, never been seen before,” said Steve Auscavitch, Nautilus biology science lead.

“We’re looking at species that may be new to science. We’re looking at rocks on the seafloor that might have been around since before the time of the dinosaurs, so we’re really getting a chance to put ourselves some perspective.”

Key to the voyage are remote-operated vehicles built to explore the seafloor ― 12,000 feet or about 2 miles below the surface.

Johnston Atoll, which sits roughly 800 miles southwest of Hawaii, is part of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument. Scientists will spend the next month there analyzing this largely untouched environment.

“There are big branching corals ― sometimes pinks, oranges, purples, yellows, white as big as a fridge,” said Megan Cook, Nautilus co-expedition lead. “Some sponges, the records for deep sea sponges could be like almost as big as a car, so you’re seeing these really different environments and feeling like you’re flying through them.”

Researchers say this journey will be critical in shining a light on this hidden region.

It could also provide insights on the Pacific as a whole.

“Going and witnessing these places will help us know and can help us make those comparisons to Papahanaumokuakea or to the main Hawaiian islands or to the nations of Kiribati or the wider pacific,” Cook said.

“Help kind of see what things are similar, what things are different and what we can keep learning about that.”

The public can join the Nautilus as the entire expedition is being livestreamed 24/7 at www.nautiluslive.org.

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