Year 3: April 2013 – May 2013
From Cape Hatteras to Canada, the continental slope is riddled with deep canyons that link the continental shelf to the deep sea, serving as pathways for nutrients, sediments and pollutants,. Little is known about life in the canyons’ unique habitats.
An interdisciplinary team of researchers will study the canyons, particularly Baltimore and Norfolk, over a four year period from 2010 – 2014. The results of this work will help guide the future uses of these ocean resources, which may include oil exploration, alternative energy development and intensive fisheries. The work will also assist in protecting vulnerable canyon habitats, through development of protected areas such as National Marine Sanctuaries.
During the first cruise, scientists used multibeam sonar to create detailed maps of nearly 1,400 sq. km of the canyons and surrounding areas. The multibeam maps helped researchers identify potential sites for exploration, and the project marine archaeologist identified nine new shipwreck sites. These maps will continue to be used to guide the sampling activities of the 2013 research cruise.
During fall of 2012 the science team used the Kraken II ROV to conduct video transects, collect samples of invertebrates, fishes sediment and water, and record environmental data. The ROV was also used to explore the shipwreck targets discovered by the multibeam sonar. As expected these were the remains of the WW-I era ‘Billy Mitchell Fleet’ that were sunk off the coast of Virginia. A variety of other non-ROV sampling activities were performed, including bottom trawling and box-coring to obtain information on soft sediment habitats in the canyons and collection of water column data using a CTD instrument. The scientists also deployed four benthic landers and two moorings to collect long-term information on temperature, salinity, oxygen, turbidity, current speed and direction, and sediment deposition over a one year period. During May of 2013 the team will continue their work natural ecosystems and historic shipwrecks in the middle Atlantic canyons.
This study is being funded under contract to CSA Ocean Sciences, Inc. and its academic partners from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM). The NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research and the US Geological Survey are also collaborators on this four year effort.