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National Marine Sanctuary News
Fall 2005

Uncovering Identity of Florida Keys' Mystery Wreck

Archaeologists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) and the State of Florida began a 10-day mission on June 20 to identify the wreck of an unknown ship that may have sunk more than a century ago in what is now the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. During the mission, archaeologists planned to map the wreck, take samples to help determine the age of the ship, and search the area for historical artifacts. Researchers say there is evidence that the ship may even predate the Spanish fleet that was decimated by a storm in the Straits of Florida in 1733. Click here for the full story!

NOAA Launches West Coast Humpback Whale Study

whales breaching
Breaching Humpback Whales. (Photo: Cornelia Oedekoven, NMSF Scientific Research Permit Nos. 774-1714-00 and 540-1502-00)
The National Marine Sanctuary System and NOAA Fisheries Service launched a research cruise in the North Pacific Ocean on June 28, marking the start of the summer 2005 phase of the single largest humpback whale population survey ever attempted. During this portion of the survey, researchers are gathering data on humpbacks along the West Coast, with an emphasis on coverage in the five national marine sanctuaries in California and Washington. Called SPLASH (Structures of Populations, Levels of Abundance and Status of Humpbacks), the three-year study began in early 2004 and combines the efforts of NOAA scientists and hundreds of other researchers from 10 different countries.

NOAA Research Expedition Returns from Northwestern Hawaiian Islands

Fifteen scientists aboard the 224-foot NOAA research ship Hi‘ialakai successfully completed a 25-day expedition to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Coral Reef Ecosystem Reserve on June 7. During the cruise, researchers studied a type of coral disease, conducted an archaeological survey of several 19th century whaling shipwreck sites, and mapped more than 650 nautical miles of the ocean floor. Updates from the expedition, which was the first collaborative research effort involving the reserve, the National Marine Sanctuary Program, and the Hawai‘i Institute of Marine Biology, can be found at

NOAA, URI Tacke Thunder Bay Shipwreck Survey

Researchers from Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary teamed up with archaeologists from the University of Rhode Island on a 10-day expedition from June 8-17, which was the first phase of a multi-year joint project to study the sanctuary’s numerous shipwrecks. The research mission included a sonar survey of shallow portions of the sanctuary between North Point and Thunder Bay Island, investigation of several possible shipwreck sites - one of which proved to be the remains of a wooden schooner - and an analysis of microbial communities on wooden shipwrecks.

EnviroDiscoveries Educates American Samoa Youth

Beginning June 15, education staff at Fagatele Bay National Marine Sanctuary led the coordination and implementation of this year’s annual EnviroDiscoveries Camps, a program that teaches children ages 8-12 about their marine environment and how to help care for and protect it. With 28 participants and five camp graduates returning as junior counselors, this year’s three camp sessions consist of three-day camping trips along the coast and are packed with fun environmental activities, hiking, swimming, snorkeling, and kayaking lessons. EnviroDiscoveries is produced by Le Tausagi, a collaboration between the marine sanctuary and the government environmental education groups of American Samoa.

West Coast Marine Mammal Survey Gets Underway

NOAA has launched a new research effort to identify and count marine mammals and seabirds along the West Coast of the United States. This scientific endeavor, known as the Collaborative Survey of Cetacean Abundance and the Pelagic Ecosystem (CSCAPE) will survey up to 300-miles along the continental shelf and deep waters off the coasts of Washington, Oregon and California. Researchers will gather information on the number and location of marine mammals and seabirds, conduct biopsy and photo-documentation of whales and dolphins, collect zooplankton and jellyfish samples, and conduct oceanographic investigations. Scientists will pay particular attention to the waters within the National Marine Sanctuaries System as part of a long-term ecosystem-monitoring program.

Expedition Investigates Rare Deepwater Reef

Workers from Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary participated in a research expedition to Pulley Ridge, off the southwestern coast of Florida, to investigate the United States’ deepest known coral reef from June 27- July 1. In a massive coordinated effort involving the National Marine Sanctuary Program, the Florida Institute of Oceanography, the Harte Research Institute of Texas A&M University, the Mote Marine Laboratory, the U.S. Geological Survey, and the University of South Florida, researchers studied the unique “agaricia” coral reef, which is thriving at approximately 250 feet below the surface—more than 100 feet below the normal maximum depth for reefs in the Gulf of Mexico. The expedition was extremely successful, bringing back numerous samples and images of the area’s marine life and discovering what may be a new species of coral. For more information, contact

Scientists Map Site of Historic U.S. Navy Dirigible Wreckage

Using advanced survey techniques, a team of researchers delved into the depths of Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary in May to shed new light on the fate of the USS Macon, the largest of the U.S. Navy’s ill-fated fleet of military airships. A massive, cigar-shaped dirigible the size of three 747s, the Macon met its demise just two years after it was built, crashing into the Pacific Ocean in February 1935 during a violent storm off Point Sur, Calif. Researchers from the National Marine Sanctuary Program, U.S. Geological Survey, Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, and Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute created detailed sonar maps of the Macon’s final resting place on the seafloor in preparation for a second visit to the area in 2006. In the upcoming second phase of the Macon expedition, researchers will use a remotely operated vehicle down to further examine the wreck site.

Foundation Honors Favorite ‘Uncle’ with Volunteer Award

Kimokeo Kapahulehua, known to many as “Uncle Kimokeo”, was named 2005 Volunteer of the Year by the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation for his dedication and leadership in helping to preserve, protect and promote the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. The foundation presented the award to Kimokeo, who was selected from a pool of 15 nominees from around the National Marine Sanctuary System, at its third annual Leadership Awards Dinner in Washington, D.C. on June 7. Kimokeo’s extensive volunteer résumé includes sitting on the sanctuary’s advisory council, serving as president of the sanctuary’s non-profit partner Ao`ao Na Loko I`a O Maui, and giving numerous educational lectures and presentations to the public on the value of applying traditional knowledge to protecting Hawaii’s marine environment.

Film Crews Visit Flower Gardens Banks Sanctuary

Each year, on the eighth or ninth night after the August full moon, billions of pellet-sized gametes erupt from coral polyps at Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary and soar to the surface during a mass coral spawning in the Gulf of Mexico. This year, Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ocean Futures Society was on location at the sanctuary to document the phenomenon for a PBS film about the National Marine Sanctuary System. Filmmakers Howard and Michelle Hall were also on site to obtain footage for an upcoming 3D IMAX movie tentatively titled Denizens of the Deep.

Sanctuary System Signs Partnership with Italian Agency

The National Marine Sanctuary System signed an agreement on Sept. 26 with Italy’s Ministry of Environment and Land Protection. Under the agreement, the U.S. and Italy will focus on building marine protected area management capacity for both nations and planning the next steps in the partnership. Future projects include developing “sister sanctuaries,” and learning how Italians involve recreational users and businesses in site activities. Italy has one of the largest marine protected area networks in Europe. The new partnership is similar to ones already in place with Australia and South Korea.

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