New Frontiers in Ocean Exploration: The 2010 E/V Nautilus Field Season


In the summer of 2010, the Exploration Vessel NAUTILUS undertook a four-month expedition to the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean Seas. The primary goal of the NAUTILUS is to create a focus of international leadership for the development and integration of leading-edge technologies, educational programs, field operations, and public outreach programs for ocean exploration, in partnership with NOAA, the National Geographic Society, Office of Naval Research, and other sponsors. To do so, the program uses a complement of deep submergence vehicle systems and “telepresence” technologies to engage scientists, educators and the public, both at sea and ashore, allowing them to become integral members of the on-board exploration team. When discoveries are made, experts ashore are notified and brought aboard virtually within a short period of time to help guide our response actions before the ship moves on. We are currently in the middle of our field season, and have already made several discoveries of note. Ten new shipwrecks have been discovered in Turkish waters, ranging in age from Hellenistic to Byzantine. Many of these archaeological sites have been mapped using high-resolution multibeam, stereo imaging, and/or structured light imaging. In the southern Aegean Sea, seventeen of nineteen of the submarine volcanic cones of the Kolumbo Rift Zone have been explored for the first time. The hydrothermal vent field, crater walls, and flanks of Kolumbo underwater volcano have been mapped with sidescan sonar and sampled. In addition, a large debris avalanche field on the eastern flanks of Santorini volcano has been mapped with sidescan sonar, and explored and sampled using ROVs. Sidescan and ROV investigations on Eratosthenes Seamount in the eastern Mediterranean have revealed karst topography with sinkholes up to 50m in diameter and 12m deep atop the seamount, as well as vent/seep communities with populations of tube worms, bivalves, crabs, and bacteria on the slopes. Two shipwrecks were also discovered on top of Eratosthenes Seamount, likely dating to the Medieval period. The final legs of the project include: exploration of the Israeli continental outer shelf and slope; mapping and characterization of the Anaxagoras and Anaxamines Mountains; and, exploration of the Cretan Basin and the underwater craters of Nisyros and Kos volcanoes.


Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping

Publication Date


Journal or Conference Title

Fall Meeting, American Geophysical Union (AGU)

Conference Date

Dec 13 - Dec 17, 2010

Publisher Place

San Francisco, CA, USA


American Geophysical Union Publications

Document Type

Conference Proceeding