ABOUT THE MISSIONS
The Deep HOPE program will focus on ten different sites for expeditions over the first five years. We have chosen these sites due to either their unique marine environment features or the significant events they have experienced (man-made or natural) where comparative deep diving can benefit science below traditional diver depths (50m). The Deep HOPE submersibles will be operated in collaboration with scientists, artists and conservationists from each region.
This remote, northern Pacific chain is comprised of more than 50 volcanic islands and sea mounts. Although the region has been poorly studied, each expedition has yielded a remarkable diversity of deep water corals and sponges.
The corals form vast fields rather than typical reefs and take their nutrients directly from the water column. They are not reliant upon sunlight for symbiotic photosynthesis as shallow tropical corals are. Because so little research has been done in this region, the opportunities for finding new species and range extensions for known species is very high. Some examples of corals that have been observed with robotic systems include stony cup corals, fleshy Octo-coral sea whips, Hydrocorals, black corals and lophelia. These coral fields or gardens provide critical habitat to fish and invertebrates. Although these regions were heavily trawled in years past, today a large area has been fully protected from trawling. Using Deep HOPE submersibles, we will evaluate the success of the ban on trawling and document recovery rates of the ecosystem.
Often revered as one of the most beautiful and scenic places in the world, New Zealand’s steep mountains and valleys don’t end at the shore. Below the sea are submerged mountain ranges and deep trenches. One region that is of particular interest is the Kermadec Trench which reaches a depth of over 10,000m/32,000ft deep. The region supports giant squid as well as other marine animals that may transit between the depths of the trenches and the surface waters as they search for food. The Deep HOPE submersibles have a perfect depth range to be able to study these creatures as they navigate these vast distances during their vertical migrations.
Ascension is one of the most remote islands in the world. Situated in the Atlantic Ocean between South America (Brazil) and Africa (Angola), the main island and surrounding sea mounts remained largely unexplored for hundreds of years. With talk of establishing a new marine protected area, there have been shallow water surveys and mapping expeditions in the region. Utilizing the latest bathymetric maps (measurement of deep water), Deep HOPE will work with regional scientists to investigate promising features around the island and surrounding sea mounts. Discovery of new species is anticipated because to date there has been little direct exploration. Six gill sharks and deep sea eels have been observed via remote lander cameras. Our goal is to spend more time at depth directly observing these deep sea fishes.
N. SULAWESI, INDONESIA
The waters around the multitude of Indonesian islands abound with coral reefs making them favorite diving destinations. Below diver depths a very special old fish has survived for millennia, the Indonesian Coelacanth. We want to photograph and observe these fish to see if individuals can be distinguished and to see how deep they go. Like their cousins in Madagascar, these fish frequent caves and ledges by day. Although this has not yet been observed, they are believed to migrate up the water column at night. A submersible is the ideal tool for this kind of observation. We will incorporate specialized low light camera technology to document these fish without introducing harsh light that could disorient the fish.
Palmyra Atoll is part of the Pacific Remote Islands National Marine Monument. The waters surrounding Palmyra are considered to be some of the most intact and biodiverse in the world due to the remote location. This also makes the area one of the least explored. With so much of the Pacific impacted by over fishing and development, Palmyra provides us with vital baseline information that can be used to compare/contrast with more populated areas. It will provide us with a better idea of what restoration and recovery of damaged areas should strive for and what key indicator species to look for as recovery happens. We expect to find new species and range extensions while exploring the waters around Palmyra.
Arctic sea ice is shrinking allowing easier access to the Northwest Passage which in turn makes the entire region more accessible to commerce and tourism. Having better access means we can also now explore below the surface. As in the Antarctic, water temperatures are far too cold and conditions too hazardous for most divers to attempt deep diving. However, a submersible provides protection from the elements for scientists and observers. There are interesting marine mammals including walrus and narwhal that have mainly been observed only from the surface. The region is also home to the Greenland Shark, a large and very long-lived species found only in deep, high latitude waters. The Deep HOPE submersibles will be invaluable for discovering new information about their life history and behaviors.
Only a few human occupied submersibles have ventured into the waters surrounding Antarctica. Its remote location combined with frigid waters make diving an arduous undertaking. In addition most submersibles do not have the safety certifications that the Deep HOPE submersibles have for diving in the Polar Region. Despite the cold, these waters are some of the most productive in terms of biodiversity anywhere in the world. Though cold and icy, Antarctica is very geologically active with subsea thermal vents that support a wide variety of life. Leopard seals and penguins are some of the more iconic animals one might see, but the area abounds with fish and colorful invertebrates.
GULF OF MEXICO
The Gulf of Mexico is a vital area for the study of deep brine seeps; however, it is also an extremely imperiled body of water. Millions of people rely upon it for their livelihood and recreation, but it suffers heavily from decades of intense industrial extraction of oil, gas as well as overfishing. In 2010 the Deep Water Horizon oil spill disaster further stressed this fragile, yet vital region. During the five-year Sustainable Seas Expeditions, one-person submersibles and ROVs were used to obtain baseline observations to 600m. Returning to these sites with the Deep HOPE subs will allow us to measure the change and rate of recovery following the Gulf oil spill.
The Coral Sea is a marginal sea that extends along the northeastern coast of Australia for about 2000km. There are a number of islands and sea mounts in the region, many of which are largely unexplored, especially below diver depths. Dives with the Deep HOPE submersibles in this region promise to be colorful and exciting with new deep water species to be found.
The Seychelles are perhaps most well-known for being the home of the world’s largest seed, the Coco-de-Mer coconut. However, beneath the surface lies some of the region's most unique geology. Our Deep HOPE submersibles will go from island to island, investigating the deeper areas of the region and documenting the varieties of deep water red algae and animals that thrive here due to nutrient-rich cold water currents from the depths.
The plight of the many endemic land-based species of Madagascar is well known, as well as the overall decline in biodiversity driven by an expanding human population. The surrounding seas have been impacted as well by overfishing and sediments running into the sea from hastily cleared lands. What the Deep HOPE submersibles will be able to do, and what has not been studied in much detail, is what conditions are like offshore and in deep waters. We would like to see what the distribution of corals and fishes are like, and we anticipate finding frilled sharks and South African Coelacanth.
Palau is made up of 340 islands spread over 466 square kilometers. It is a truly magical dive destination. Though the nation is small, it is a giant in forward-thinking marine protection. In 2015, the Palau congress voted to afford protection to 80 percent of the surrounding waters. This step was intended to help protect the valuable tourism industry and local artisan fishers. As with other dive destinations outlined here, Palau has incredible potential for new discoveries in deep water. The chambered nautilus is found in Palau, but very little is known about them. Dive encounters utilize baited traps that are lowered into deep water. The animals are brought up to shallow water for divers to see and then released. Using submersibles, these animals can be observed in a more natural situation without injury to them. There may also be the potential to see Argonauts, cephalopods that resemble nautilus with a thin papery shell.
DOER MARINE OPERATIONS
The submersibles HOPE 1000 and HOPE 2000 are currently being designed at DOER Marine in Alameda, CA. DOER was founded in 1992 by Dr. Sylvia Earle as Deep Ocean Exploration and Research, a marine consulting firm. DOER president, Liz Taylor, expanded the firm’s scope and capabilities to include ROV and submersible support services, leading to the demand for full engineering and operations capacity. DOER continues to grow with a full team of innovators, engineers, field operations supervisors, project management staff, technicians and key advisers.
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