The Okeanos Explorer, a United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration expedition ship, will be conducting research between American Samoa and the Cook Islands.
It is the first US government vessel dedicated solely to ocean exploration.
The vessel is 70 metres long and has a crew of 46.
The oceanic and atmospheric administration uses the Okeanos Explorer for mapping operations and a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) dives in the deep ocean throughout the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, which covers protected marine areas around US Pacific Islands.
It also operates in regions surrounding those marine zones.
While working in our waters the Okeanos Explorer will collect baseline data that will aid the Cook Islands government in planning for Marae Moana. Baseline data is the initial collection of information that will serve as something to compare subsequently acquired information with.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says: “Operations will include the use of the ship’s deep-water mapping systems and its high-bandwidth satellite connection for real-time ship-to-shore communications, real-time sonar control from shore, and real-time video streaming of sonar screens and ship’s cameras.”
The administration offered the Cook Islands an opportunity to explore the deep ocean because Marae Moana is a member of the Big Ocean Network.
The objectives for research done on behalf of the Cook Islands will be:
• Mapping the bottom of sections of the Manihiki Plateau, seamounts and abyssal plains, and a small area surrounding an unnamed seamount at 16° 19.754’S, 165° 6.690’W.
• Sampling crust and rock material to aid geological determination of the evolution and structure of the Manihiki region.
• Describing the deep-sea bottom habitats and communities of organisms observed during Remotely Operated Vehicle dives.