Would you like to explore the Gulf with NOAA? Here is your chance!

Have you ever followed the adventures of Jacques Cousteau and dreamed to be among his team of ocean explorers? How exciting would that be to be able to join them through their daily task!

Now, thanks to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) new program, you can!

From today through April 28, the public can watch live undersea video and listen in as ocean explorers at sea and ashore comment in real-time as they observe marine species, visit gas seeps and map poorly known areas of the northern Gulf of Mexico.

Through telepresence technology, satellite and high-speed Internet pathways between ship and shore, scientists ashore will view information from sensors and high-definition cameras as it is collected at sea, so they may help guide how the expedition unfolds. Using a computer or mobile device, the public can join the expedition as virtual explorers live online.

“Advances in technology help NOAA and our partners bring the excitement of exploring right into living rooms and classrooms across the globe — live!,” said Tim Arcano, director of NOAA’s Office of Ocean Exploration and Research. “It’s a great way for the public to be involved as virtual ocean explorers, especially as we explore our ocean planet during Earth Day, April 22.”

Though live streams will be sent from the ship 24 hours a day from now through April 28 , each day, weather permitting, the streams between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. EDT will include video from high-definition cameras on the expedition’s undersea robots, called ROVs for remotely-operated vehicles. The ROVs send video images and sensor data to the ship to be relayed ashore by satellite.

The expedition is using NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer, which is equipped with a state-of-the-art multibeam mapping sonar; the Institute for Exploration’s Little Hercules ROV; and telepresence capability. Areas to be explored were first identified during a workshop in 2011 and were further refined during a series of mapping missions.

The expedition’s main objective is to explore poorly known regions of the Gulf of Mexico and to map and image unknown features and species. Another objective is to test a method using equipment mounted on the ROV to measure the rate that gas rises from seeps on the seafloor. During a cruise last year, NOAA and partners demonstrated the Okeanos Explorer’s multibeam sonar was capable of mapping gas seeps in the water column over broad areas and at high resolution. Testing new methods and technologies is a priority of NOAA’s Office of Ocean Exploration and Research.

The expedition has been underway since early April and areas exhibiting rich biodiversity have been discovered, including at the base of the West Florida Escarpment, an undersea cliff-like ridge, where explorers found a ‘forest’ of deep corals, several of which were new to scientists on the ship and ashore.

NOAA’s partners in the 2012 Gulf of Mexico expedition include the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, College of Charleston, C&C Technologies, Florida Atlantic University, Geoscience Earth & Marine Services, Louisiana State University, Mississippi State University, Naval Historical Society, the NOAA Northern Gulf Institute , Pennsylvania State University, Temple University, Tesla Offshore LLC, the Institute for Exploration, University Corporation for Atmospheric Research Joint Office for Science Support, University of New Hampshire, University of Rhode Island, University of Texas at Austin, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and multiple other NOAA partners. 

The Okeanos Explorer Program is the only federal program dedicated to systematic exploration of the planet’s largely unknown ocean. NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer is operated, managed and maintained byNOAA’s Office of Marine and Aviation Operations which includes commissioned officers of the NOAA Corps and civilian wage mariners. NOAA’s Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, operates, manages and maintains the cutting-edge ocean exploration systems on the vessel and ashore including, the Institute for Exploration’s Little Hercules ROV, OER’s Camera Sled Seirios, a sonar mapping system, telepresence capability, exploration command centers ashore, and terrestrial high-speed communication networks.

NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources.

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