Live from the Seafloor to Scientists Ashore

NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer.

NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer.

High resolution (Credit: NOAA)

All life on Earth relies on the ocean — that bountiful yet mysterious abyss that provides oxygen and regulates global temperature to make the Earth livable. Other key ocean benefits include food, energy, and transportation. But exploring the ocean can be time consuming and costly, with 95 percent of it still an unexplored mystery. But NOAA ship Okeanos Explorer is the only ship in the United States designed and tasked to explore our largely unknown ocean.

Unlike its sister ships in the NOAA fleet, the Okeanos Explorer will have most of the expedition scientists remaining ashore. Using satellite technology and high speed Internet to transmit data, known as telepresence, real-time images from the seafloor and other ocean data will flow to scientists in any of the five land-based Exploration Command Centers. These shore-side scientists can direct the expedition in real-time, investigating discoveries made in the course of exploration, no matter where the ship is located.

During some operations, the Okeanos Explorer also will provide streaming video to NOAA’s Ocean Explorer Web site, bringing the excitement of ocean discovery live into classrooms, newsrooms, and living rooms.

Exploration command Center.

An Exploration Command Center.

High resolution (Credit: NOAA)

More Efficient Exploration Through Innovation

Known as America’s Ship for Ocean Exploration, Okeanos was a former U.S. Navy surveillance vessel, transferred to NOAA in 2004 and converted to perform ocean exploration. By refurbishing a surplus ship instead of building a new one for ocean discovery, the government saved American taxpayers millions of dollars.

The Okeanos Explorer will travel around the globe to map the seafloor and characterize largely unknown areas of the ocean. Interesting seafloor features can be discovered with the deep water multibeam sonar mapping system.

Okeanos’ sonar is uniquely engineered to produce higher resolution data in deep water. This new technology enables the ship to move at higher surveying speeds. The sonar also is capable of detecting targets in the water column such as phytoplankton and fish.

The Okeanos’ multibeam operates most efficiently at deeper depths. The system is currently being tested and when testing is complete, it should be proven to be “the best deep-water system in the world.”

Deploying ROV.

Deploying ROV.

High resolution (Credit: NOAA)

Sites can be further explored with the ship’s remotely operated vehicles (ROVs), which can travel to a depth of 6,000 meters. Images and high-definition video from the underwater vehicles will be sent from the vehicle to the ship to the shore in real-time.

The Okeanos Explorer is the only NOAA ship to have dedicated ROVs. Although ROVs have been used on other NOAA ships, they are typically removed at the end of a mission. Having a permanent ROV makes it easier to deploy and use at any time throughout the field season.

On the Okeanos Explorer, there is an integrated control room for operating the ROVs and conducting telepresence-enabled communications. Having the screens and computers permanently wired to the ship and to its sensors and systems makes it more efficient to sustain long-term exploration in remote areas of the world.

While explorers have sailed the ocean for centuries, it still holds many secrets. This new ship will help unlock those mysteries and bring discoveries to light.

To learn more about the Okeanos and its missions, visit the Okeanos Explorer’s Web site. NOAA logo.