Mid-Atlantic Deepwater Canyons NOAA Research Cruise
Dr. Sandra Brooke is setting sail with NOAA to further explore the submarine canyons between Charleston, SC and Norfolk, VA. In 2010, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and NOAA funded a four-year project to conduct multidisciplinary research that will be used to manage canyon ecosystems. In August 2012, an international team of scientists boarded the NOAA ship Nancy Foster for a 43-day research cruise to explore and study Norfolk and Baltimore canyons. Multi-beam maps helped guide the ROV Kraken II (Univ. of Connecticut), which recorded high definition video and collected samples for research. Benthic landers and moorings were placed in both canyons to record environmental data, collect sediment samples, and deploy experiments. One of their objectives was to locate a methane cold seep first discovered over 30 years ago using a towed camera. They found the seep on the flank of Baltimore Canyon, conducted a detailed survey, and made collections of the seep mussels for genetics, reproduction, and isotopic analysis. They discovered colonies of the reef-building coral Lophelia pertusa in both canyons; these are the first records of this species in the mid-Atlantic region, and they fill a prior distribution gap between Lopheliareefs off the southeastern US and records from the New England canyons. They also found large stands of Paragorgia (bubblegum) coral on the rugged canyon walls, and explored several WW-I warships and other marine archaeological sites. They are returning aboard the NOAA ship Ronald H. Brown with the ROV Jason II to continue exploring these canyons.