Between February and April 2017, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will conduct two telepresence-enabled ocean exploration cruises (virtual reality technology) to collect information of unknown and poorly known deepwater areas in American Samoa and Samoa, specifically the Rose Atoll Marine National Monument (RAMNM) and National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa (NMSAS). During the cruises, the NOAA’s at-sea and on-shore science teams will work together to map the seafloor and make key deepwater scientific observations in these areas. Here are some stunning underwater photos from the region of the marine life.

Why this area?

Most deepwater areas remain poorly known and are of high interest to federal and state agencies with research and management responsibilities. The areas being investigated in Samoa, specifically, contain some of the last relatively pristine marine ecosystems on the planet and harbor numerous protected species, undiscovered shipwrecks, and cultural landscapes. However, their remoteness had previously created substantial challenges.

Shallow-water reef

Deep and Shallow Ecosystem Connections
Shallow-water reef habitat of Fagetele Bay showing a thriving coral community.

greeneye fish

A greeneye fish turns its attention towards the Deep Discoverer

This large stalked crinoid, or sea lily (either Metacrinus or Saracrinus) flexes its feathery arms back into the current

Porphyrocrinus sea lilies

Porphyrocrinus sea lilies attach to hard substrates via a holdfast and have arms that terminate in slender filaments

Rose Atoll Marine National Monument(RAMNM) consists of approximately 13,436 square miles, and supports a dynamic reef ecosystem that is home to a diverse assemblage of marine species, many of which are threatened or endangered. The other location being watched, the National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa (NMSAS), covers 13,581 square miles, and supports the greatest diversity of marine life in the National Marine Sanctuary System, and protects extensive coral reefs, including some of the oldest and largest Porites coral heads in the world, deepwater reefs, hydrothermal vent communities, and rare marine archaeological resources.


All images courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research.

sea star

A brisingid sea star clings to a ferromanganese cobble. The cobble, and the associated sea star, were collected shortly after being imaged by D2.

NOAA pink fish

A deepwater longtail red snapper (Etelis coruscans) measuring one meter (three feet) long, observed at 353 meters depth on a southeastern ridge off Ta’u island, within National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa

Yellow zoanthids

Yellow zoanthids colonizing the base of a dead golden octocoral skeleton. Several living colonies of golden octocorals in the background

chrysogorgiid octocoral

A chrysogorgiid octocoral seen with an ophiuroid brittle star associate on bare coral skeleton. This is very unusual as brittle stars are usually associated with healthy coral tissue

View more photos and videos associated with the 2017 American Samoa Expedition: Suesuega o le Moana o Amerika Samoa on NOAA’s Photo & Video Log. 

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