The Deepest Parts of the Caribbean Sea

By: Caribbean Journal Staff - April 12, 2015

Above: a dumbo octopus

By the Caribbean Journal staff

A new project by the United States’ National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration plans to go where no one has gone before — in the Caribbean Sea.

A new project that launched Friday on the NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer is beginning a series of 20 dives to investigate “previously unseen depths of the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean,” according to a statement.

The dives will go as deep as 3.7 miles through a sophisticated unmanned submarine.

“We’ll be exploring an area of the United States Exclusive Economic Zone that science knows very little about,” said Alan Leonardi, director of NOAA’s Office of Ocean Exploration and Research. “In order to understand and sustainably manage the ocean’s resources, we first have to survey what resources exist.”

Many of the dives will take place in the Puerto Rico Trench, which is about 500 miles long and 5.4 miles at its deepest.

That is deeper than anywhere else in the Atlantic Ocean Basin.

Other areas are slated to include the Muertos Trough, Mona Channel and Virgin Islands Trough.

Thus far, what scientists do know about the area is that it is tectonically active with certain seismic hazards and that it contains deepwater snapper populations and deepwater corals, among others.

Okeanos Explorer recently spent four weeks mapping 13,600 square miles of seafloor around both Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.

“We don’t know exactly what we can expect to see,” said Lt. Brian Kennedy, who is coordinating the expedition. “That’s precisely why we explore.”

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