NOAA takes the Internet on a deep-sea tour

Free live video feeds and educational materials help everyone discover the deep sea

The NOAA Okeanos Explorer will capture images like this brittle star, seen on a similar trip in 2012.

Courtesy of NOAA Okeanos Explorer Program

The sea floor can sometimes seem like a fantastic alien landscape. Brain shaped coral, strangely-shaped animals and shipwrecks loom up out of the gloom. But in addition to its lovely, otherworldly quality, the sea offers a great opportunity to educate students about well-out-of-view habitats.

Starting tomorrow, anyone with an Internet connection can get a free ticket to the bottom of the sea. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, will send live video from its ship, the Okeanos Explorer, in the Gulf of Mexico. From April 12 to 30, the ship will deploy remotely operated vehicles to the seafloor. These ROVs will send back videos, so those on shore can explore with them the canyons, shipwrecks and marine life.

Planned highlights include Earth Day, April 22, when the underwater vehicles will be exploring a deep sea canyon. On April 15, 16 and 24, the ship will be sending the ROVs to probe shipwrecks. All video feeds are available free from NOAA’s website. The site also will offer background essays and educational materials, including lesson plans, interactive missions and a digital atlas.

Power Words

coral     Marine animals that often produce a hard and stony exoskeleton and tend to live on the exoskeletons of dead corals, called reefs.

habitat  The area or natural environment in which an animal or plant normally lives, such as a desert, coral reef or freshwater lake. A habitat can be home to many different organisms.

remotely operated underwater vehicle     (or ROV) An electrically powered craft that is tethered to something above the water, usually a ship. People operate this craft from a remote location. Because these vehicles don’t need a pilot onboard, then can go places that are inhospitable for people, such as the very deep ocean.

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Bethany Brookshire was a longtime staff writer at Science News Explores and is the author of the book Pests: How Humans Create Animal Villains. She has a Ph.D. in physiology and pharmacology and likes to write about neuroscience, biology, climate and more. She thinks Porgs are an invasive species.