NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer 2012 Field Season in the Northern Gulf of Mexico and U.S. Atlantic Continental Margin


The NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer, jointly operated by the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research and the NOAA Office of Marine and Aviation Operations, is America's only federally managed ship dedicated solely to ocean exploration. The 2012 field season was spent exploring the northern Gulf of Mexico and the U.S. Atlantic continental shelf break and slope. In the Gulf of Mexico, mapping and remotely operated vehicle operations focused on the salt domes and canyons offshore Mississippi and Louisiana, and characterized several of the hundreds of seeps that were detected in the water column backscatter data collected with the ship's Kongsberg EM 302 multibeam sonar (30 kHz) during the 2011 field season. A team of NOAA and non-NOAA partners identified priority frontier areas along the continental shelf and slope between North Carolina and Cape Cod, mapping numerous canyons selected for focused mapping exploration in partnership with the North East Fisheries Science Center, the Mid-Atlantic Regional Council on the Ocean (a state level partnership between various states including NY, NJ, DE, MD, and VA), Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and Virginia Sea Grant. The 2012 mapping efforts built on data collected during the 2011 field season. Okeanos Explorer data were leveraged by NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow to conduct towed camera operations to ground truth multibeam backscatter data for deepwater coral habitat assessment. The Blake Ridge and Cape Fear Diapirs offshore North Carolina were a third focus of exploration operations. Seven 900 meter high cold seeps were discovered in the diapir province. Exploration incorporated WHOI's Sentry autonomous underwater vehicle and its full suite of mapping and oceanographic sensors were used to characterize six seep sites. All data collected by Okeanos Explorer are available via the NOAA public archives with metadata records within 60 to 90 days of the end of each cruise.


Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping

Publication Date


Journal or Conference Title

Fall Meeting, American Geophysical Union (AGU)

Conference Date

Dec 3 - Dec 7, 2012

Publisher Place

San Francisco, CA, United States


American Geophysical Union Publications

Document Type

Conference Proceeding