Explore Spectacular:

Interesting Discoveries From 50 Years of
National Marine Sanctuaries

By Rachel Plunkett

May 2022

The spirit of exploration is what draws us to visit places off the beaten path—it’s what keeps us asking and seeking answers to new questions—further invigorating our curiosity. While the spirit of exploration existed in the waters of national marine sanctuaries long before many of them were designated, it continues to be one of the driving forces at the heart of protecting these special underwater places. Through partnerships and the aid of new technology, we’re able to go farther and learn more than those who came before. As we celebrate the upcoming 50th Anniversary of your National Marine Sanctuary System, join us on an exciting journey looking back at some of the discoveries made through five decades of exploration.

several colorful deep-sea corals in a dark ocean

Biodiversity at Davidson Seamount

Since the first biological expedition to Davidson Seamount, it has been globally recognized as one of the best studied and most protected seamounts.

a coral releasing tiny white balls into the water column

Mass Coral Spawning

Every August, the reef-building corals of Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary put on a fantastic spawning display.

a whale's head breaches the surface as several birds fly around it trying to catch the fish it is eating

Where the Humpback Feeds

Studies on sand lance, seabirds, and whales at Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary over the last decade, combined with climate change data, have given a new sense of vulnerability of the ecosystem.

a black and white photo of a steamship

History and Economy of the Great Lakes Region

Michigan’s “Shipwreck Alley” holds the stories from over 200 years of Great Lakes shipping and countless sailors and passengers. This is the story of the steamer Choctaw, from its final voyage to discovery on the lakebed about 100 years later.

a shark swims over a shipwreck

USS Monitor: From Weapon of War to Island of Life

In May 2022, researchers aboard NOAA Ship Nancy Foster returned to the resting place of USS Monitor. Protected as a national marine sanctuary for nearly 50 years, the Civil War ironclad serves as a uniquely accessible underwater museum and memorial, and is now considered an "island of life."

a night sky with stars and a meteor shower

The Power of Wow

Even before the passage of the Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act of 1972, it was clear that science was intended to be central to the creation and management of national marine sanctuaries.

More Discoveries

Check back soon for more stories featuring fascinating discoveries throughout your national marine sanctuaries!