Researchers explore Alaska’s deep sea

Category: Science/Environment


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. surface / ˈsɜr fɪs / (v.) – (of a feeling or information) to appear or become known

    After a thorough investigation, the detectives surfaced new information about their case.

  2. reconfigure / ˌri kənˈfɪg yər / (v.) – to change the original form or arrangement of something for a special purpose

    The architect reconfigured the office space to have bigger meeting rooms.

  3. outfit / ˈaʊtˌfɪt / (v.) – to provide someone or something with equipment or clothes

    We were outfitted with hiking tools and supplies when we climbed the mountain.

  4. expedition / ˌɛk spɪˈdɪʃ ən / (n.) – a long trip for a particular purpose, usually to explore a distant place or to do research

    A group of scientists are going on an expedition to Antarctica to find out the impact of climate change.

  5. nautical / ˈnɔ tɪ kəl / (adj.) – relating to boats, ships, and sailing

    The community is proud of its nautical history. Boating has been a part of its culture for hundreds of years.


Read the text below.

For the team aboard the Okeanos Explorer off the coast of Alaska, exploring the mounds and craters of the sea floor along the Aleutian Islands is a chance to surface new knowledge about life in some of the world’s deepest and most remote waters.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) research vessel is on a five-month mission aboard a reconfigured former Navy vessel run by civilians and members of the NOAA Corps. The ship, with a 48-member crew, is outfitted with technology and tools to peer deep into the ocean to gather data to share with onshore researchers in real time. The hope is that this data will then be used to drive future research.

Using a variety of sonars and two remotely operated vehicles — Deep Discoverer and Serios — researchers aboard the ship are mapping and collecting samples from areas along the Aleutian Trench and Gulf of Alaska. High-resolution cameras that can operate at depths of up to 6,000 meters (19,685 feet) allow researchers to document and immediately share their findings. The ship can also live stream dives to the public.

During these dives, expedition coordinator team lead Shannon Hoy said they plan to investigate some of the area’s cold seep communities — places where gases from under the sea floor rise through cracks and where plants don’t rely on photosynthesis for food production, as well as observe the types of flora and fauna in the area.

Kasey Cantwell, the ship’s operations chief, said the data will help researchers and the public better understand these remote stretches of ocean, including marine life and habitats in the area. That could inform management decisions in fisheries. Data could also help detect hazards and improve nautical charts.

The deep ocean off Alaska’s Aleutian Islands is one of the least mapped places in the U.S., partly due to its remoteness. Modern mapping standards have covered just 34% of the seafloor around Alaska, which has one of the nation’s largest coastal ecosystems, and only a fraction of that has been seen, according to the expedition’s website.

This article was provided by The Associated Press.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

  • The Okeanos Explorer can live stream dives to the public. How does doing so contribute to the broader goals of the expedition? What are the potential benefits of engaging the public in real-time exploration and research? Discuss.
  • On NOAA’s website, the public can watch the live stream. Would you go and watch the dives live? Why or why not? How do you think watching the dive exploration will affect you (ex. it will educate me, it will catch my interest)? Discuss.

Discussion B

  • According to the article, Alaska is one of the United States’ largest coastal ecosystems, and only a fraction of it has been seen. In your opinion, is it necessary to explore the Earth completely and discover everything about it? Why or why not? Discuss.
  • Do you think there are areas in your country that have not been explored yet? What kind of research do you think your country needs? Discuss.