The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Okeanos Explorer ship is back meeting the inhabitants of the Gulf of Mexico. It’s less than a third the way through its 23-day mission, and the research team has already become well-acquainted with the locals, some of which have never been documented before.
From April 11 to May 3, 2018, the Okeanos Explorer is collecting valuable information about the poorly understood marine life and geography of the deepwater environment in the Gulf of Mexico using remotely-operated vehicles at depths of over 1,500 meters (~4,920 feet). From graceful sea stars to octopuses fighting in crab-covered shipwrecks, it's truly like another world down there.
One of the strangest creatures they have come across so far is an unidentified scarlet-red distinctly devilish-looking squid, one of several different squid species so far on this dive.
They also came across an especially beautiful Muusoctopus johnsonianus octopus, with a stunning iridescent pink-purple coloring, burying into the sediment as the ROV went overhead.
Another particularly cool character was a skate that was, well, skating across the seabed at 1,500 meters (~4,920 feet) on Sunday, April 15.
It wasn’t just alien-like sea creatures that the team stumbled upon, they also came across several shipwrecks. The Gulf of Mexico has been a hub of maritime and naval activity over the centuries, serving as the final resting place for countless WW2 ships and trade vessels that met an unfortunate end. These shipwrecks have since rusted away and become home to all manner of crustaceans. Many of the shipwrecks remain nameless and unidentified, although they did manage to pinpoint one wreck: the tugboat New Hope, which was sunk during Tropical Storm Debbie in September 1965.
On April 15, they even observed two Muusoctopus octopuses having a wrestle within a wreckage.
The Okeanos Explorer carried out the first leg of this research back in December 2017, which brought about the momentous discovery of the so-called “headless chicken monster”.
These missions are helping scientists understand the unique marine environment of the Gulf of Mexico. This 1,550,000-square-kilometer (600,000 square miles) basin is home to many vulnerable marine species, as well as fascinating geological features like mud volcanoes. It’s also an environment that’s experiencing massive changes due to industrial activity, pollution, and climate change. So, the more we learn about this area now, the better.
Best of all, all of the dives are live streamed and then logged for your viewing pleasure. You can check out the live stream of the mission below, which will be available daily until May 3 from approximately 8am to 5pm CT.