On May 10, 2016, the Ocean Exploration Trust (OET) embarked on a four-month expedition aboard Exploration Vessel (E/V) Nautilus. In its second year of exploring the eastern Pacific Ocean, Nautilus visited sites from British Columbia and along the west coast of North America down to southern California including regions within U.S. National Marine Sanctuaries.
E/V Nautilus began her 2016 expedition exploring Canadian waters in partnership with Ocean Networks Canada. Nautilus visited various sites along the NEPTUNE observatory, which is located off the west coast of British Columbia and supplies continuous power and Internet connectivity to a broad suite of subsea instruments. The work also included exploration of the geology and biology associated with a wide range of ocean environments including a tectonically active subduction zone, methane seeps, hydrothermal vents, and the abyssal plain.
Nautilus then worked her way south to explore the USA’s west coast in a partnership with NOAA through the Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory. Partnering with NOAA, Nautilus first explored the ecosystems of the Cascadia Margin subduction zone and offshore central California to survey the extent of natural methane seeps along USA's Pacific Northwest and the diverse ecosystems they support.
She then began exploring within Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary off of Santa Barbara, California. Within the sanctuary, Nautilus surveyed geological and geophysical aspects of the region.
In late summer, Nautilus explored offshore Los Angeles to explore some of the most tectonically active as well as densely populated areas offshore California. The team investigated the Southern California Margin, a broad area that fits entirely within the US Exclusive Economic Zone but that still remains largely unexplored. The margin is a heavily trafficked area and has been investigated for over 50 years, by the academic community, federal agencies, military, and petroleum and fisheries industries. However, high-resolution multibeam bathymetric coverage of the seafloor here remains less than 50% complete, leaving much to be discovered.
Nautilus then returned northward along the California coastline to study the cultural heritage and natural wildlife in Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary. Recently expanded to protect 3,295 square miles, the sanctuary contains over 400 shipwrecks and is largely unexplored in the deepest portions. Nautilus surveyed USS Independence, a World War II-era naval ship and former aircraft carrier, once used in the atomic tests at Bikini Atoll in the Pacific. Nautilus conducted the first visual survey of Independence since her sinking and imaged the ship for photomosaic and microbathymetry data. Two other shipwrecks, the Ituna, which was a historic steam yacht from 1886, and the freighter Dorothy Windermote were also explored.