NOAA, together with partners, will conduct a series of research expeditions as part of the Voyage to the Ridge 2022 project.
Between May and September, researchers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – NOAA will carry out a series of three expeditions. Their aim will be to explore and study the ocean depths using the advanced equipment at their disposal. As usual, the scientific team will set off aboard the research vessel Okeanos Explorer.
In particular, the researchers will focus on ocean depth mapping and exploration using a remotely operated robotic ROV. During the expeditions, the science team will collect baseline information on unexplored and poorly understood areas of the Charlie-Gibbs Rift Zone, the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and the Azores Plateau.
Located at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, the Mid-Atlantic Ridge stretches for an impressive 16,000 km. It is the longest mountain range in the world and one of the most visible geological features on Earth. Interestingly, most of it is actually underwater. Therefore, much of it remains largely unexplored.
Of particular interest to researchers are the spectacular hydrothermal vents. These can form where magma provides heat as it escapes to the seafloor. It is now known that these holes support a variety of chemosynthetic communities. However, to date, we know little about life in these places once the holes die out or what life is found outside the holes, further away from the rift zone.
The researchers’ task during Voyage to the Ridge 2022 will be to fill some of the gaps in our knowledge. The researchers also want to increase our understanding of the geological context of the region and of past and future geohazards. Another important aspect is to learn about the diversity and distribution of coral and sponge communities. The NOAA science team wants to learn how populations of deep-sea species are related to each other in this region and throughout the deep Atlantic basin.
From 9 to 30 July, NOAA is conducting a mapping and exploration operation using an ROV system. The aim is to explore the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and the Azores Plateau. The progress of the work can be followed live via a YouTube Live broadcast.
ROV-assisted dives include exploration of depths from 250 to 6,000 metres. During this time, scientists expect to explore deep-sea coral and sponge habitats, potential hydrothermal vent and extinct polymetallic sulphide systems, rift and rift zones and the water column.
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