This year begins a new focus of exploration for the Nautilus team, documenting and researching what famed oceanographer Dr. Robert Ballard has termed “The New America,” the vast expanse of virtually unexplored U.S. territories in the Caribbean and Pacific and their myriad of natural and cultural resources. This summer will take the ship to the waters of Navassa Island — a U.S. holding that has never been explored — to document new deep coral communities and other ancient coastline features. In 2015 and beyond, the team hopes to broaden its exploration of these territories worldwide.
More than 200 explorers rotating throughout various cruise legs of a 120-day expedition will first explore the geology of the Straits of Florida and The Bahamas for evidence of tsunami-generating landslide events as well as rare cold-water ecosystems. After a stop in Dry Tortugas to assist the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Office of National Marine Sanctuaries with understanding the ecology of reserves there, Nautilus will spend several weeks in the Gulf of Mexico examining the biological impact of the 2010 oil spill as well as studying the fundamental behavior of fluids as they disperse in to better predict the impact of any future oil spills. Investigation of several shipwrecks (including a German U-boat for the National Geographic Society and PBS’ NOVA program) in the area will be followed by a transit to Belize and Honduras to study the Mesoamerican Reef, the second largest barrier reef in the world.
During the Windward Passage cruise, the ship will focus its attention on the major conduit between Cuba and Haiti where the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea connect. Several dives here will also include geologic surveys of the fault zones responsible for the 2010 earthquake in Haiti to better understand the seismic and tectonic hazards in this geologically active region.
The 2014 season will end with dives on the Kick’em Jenny submarine volcano off the coast of Grenada, and mud volcanoes off the coast of Trinidad & Tobago, holding exotic forms of life that are living off chemicals being squeezed out of the seafloor. Kick’em Jenny is the most active and dangerous submarine volcano in the Caribbean Sea. Specific hazards include explosive eruptions that can breach the sea surface and the potential for tsunami generation from shallow water explosions.
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