12,000 feet below the waves, scientists catalog a treasure trove of new wonders
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A Hawaii-based team of researchers is back in the islands after an expedition thousands of feet below.
Earlier this summer, the Nautilus and its crew of 45 researchers set course for an expedition to Johnston Atoll ― 800 miles southwest of Hawaii and 12,000 feet below the surface.
Among the objectives: Explore new species and gather the first images of the area’s seafloor and on this trip, the crew mapped about 19,000 square kilometers.
“About one and a half metro New Yorks ― so one and a half of the biggest city in the U.S. ― is what we mapped and covered, but there is a ton of mapping left to do,” said Nautilus co-expedition lead Megan Cook.
“If you think about Johnston Atoll is the center of the monument and there’s 200 nautical miles in every direction around Johnston, of deep ocean protected by this place. There’s a lot of ground to cover.”
There was also a lot to discover.
Scientists encountered a number of never-before-seen wonders, including pieces of fossilized whale skull that could date back thousands or even millions of years.
“It just really made me want to like, think about time, like big time,” Cook said. “We’re talking about a thriving ocean millions of years ago. There have been interesting patterns of life.”
The trip to Johnston provided an opportunity to gather primary data on an undiscovered location and once they analyze their findings the plan is to return sometime next year.
“To go someplace that has been so rarely visited before is so special and we came back with a whole lot of new knowledge,” Cook said. “That includes geological samples, biological samples that’ll be studied for years to come as we understand what these deep sea realms really are like.”
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