Science & Exploration
2014 National Marine Sanctuaries Annual Report

photo of coral and fish undersea
Credit: MBARI 2014

First-Ever Exploration of Undersea Ridge

Scientists from the MBNMS and Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute explored Sur Ridge for the first time last year, confirming the ridge was biologically significant. Offshore Big Sur, the base of Sur Ridge lies 4,400 feet below sea level. The ridge rises 1,300 feet above the seafloor and is about the size of Manhattan. Scientists explored the ridge using a remotely operated vehicle. The team expected to see spectacular corals at the ridge’s top, but was surprised also to find corals extending to its base. Additionally, researchers identified an abundance of sponges and a chemosynthetic community of clams. The ridge has been declared a Sanctuary Ecologically Significant Area and will be the focus of future studies.

photo of remotely operated vehicle under water
Credit: G. P. Schmahl

New ROV Helps Answer Questions

The new remotely operated vehicle (ROV) recently acquired by FGBNMS was instrumental in assessing corals in the deeper portions of the sanctuary for potential research into the symbiotic relationship between coral and algae living within coral tissue. The ROV has also been vital in the evaluation of reef communities in proposed expansion sites. The ROV has also been used in research and exploration projects in other sanctuaries, such as Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. The vehicle is maintained and operated through a partnership between the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation and the Undersea Vehicle Program at the University of North Carolina – Wilmington.

photo of diver holding a catlin seaview camera
Credit: Catlin Seaview Survey

Partnership Brings Scuba Diving to Household Screens

FKNMS was the first site in a new collaboration between NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, Catlin Seaview Survey and Google. The Catlin Seaview camera is being used to document reef conditions in the sanctuary. The special high resolution camera allows scenes to be stitched into 360 degree panoramas for eventual release on Google Street View. Panoramas of iconic sites including Christ of the Abyss statue, the Aquarius undersea laboratory and staghorn coral nurseries were released to the public in August. The project received media coverage in more than 200 outlets.