Discovery of a New Deep Chemosynthetic Community

Deepwater Canyons Project Science Team

After several days of lost dives due to bad weather and making dives under difficult conditions, we are today in calm seas exploring an area that was discovered last year during a NOAA mapping cruise.  While conducting a seafloor survey, NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer found bubbles coming from the seafloor at a site south and offshore of Norfolk Canyon; they thought these bubbles may indicate a new methane seep site, but they had no way of verifying this idea.  

Today, we deployed the Jason remotely operated vehicle (ROV) from the NOAA Ship Ron Brown to 1,600 meters (nearly a mile deep—our deepest dive yet!) to explore the area around those bubbles. After transecting over soft sediment for a short time, we saw some indications that we were getting close to a probable methane seep. These indications included white patches of bacteria on the sediment surface that feed on the methane and sulfides, plus shells of dead mussels, which are the dominant animals of methane seep communities…

(via: NOAA Ocean Explorer)

(photos: Deepwater Canyons 2013 - Pathways to the Abyss, NOAA-OER/BOEM/USGS)

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