The NOAA research vessel Okeanos Explorer explored unknown areas in the Gulf of Mexico in March and April of 2012. Here, Bobby Mohr, Tom Kok, and Jeff Williams discuss plans on the back deck of the ship.
Researchers explored the seafloor of the Gulf with a remotely operated vehicle, capturing images such as these methane bubbles rising up through a bed of mussels.
At diapirs or salt domes, sometimes the salt itself actually reaches the seafloor where it dissolves, occasionally filling lows in the seafloor with super-saturated, very dense salty waters known as brines.
The remains of a ship, perhaps dating back to the early 1800s, found in the Gulf of Mexico by NOAA's Okeanos Explorer.
Deep-sea corals flourish in the dark depths of the Gulf of Mexico, providing foundations that attract lush communities of other animals, including brittle stars, anemones, crabs, and fish.
This coral may be expecting! The white dots in the translucent body may be developing embryos that will later form their own coral organisms.
A squat lobster (right) sitting next to a crinoid (left). Despite their plant-like appearance, crinoids are animals capable of pulling up roots and "walking" along the seafloor.
One fish, two fish, red fish ... okay, no blue fish here, but the Okeanos Explorer's ROV turned up gorgeous images of deep-sea fish.
One of the four shipwrecks explored during the Okeanos Explorer mission. This is a ship's steering geer under 7,000 feet of water.
U-166, the only German submarine lost in the Gulf of Mexico. The wreck of U-166 was first found in 2001.
A Leiopathes black coral colony at 425 meters depth on the West Florida escarpment in the Gulf of Mexico.
A bilge pump from a shipwreck found in the Gulf of Mexico. Early explorations had mistaken this pump for a cannon.
Two squid attempt to mate in the Gulf of Mexico.
Salt “volcanoes” with oil, gas, and brine being expelled. Here, less-dense oil migrated upwards to the seafloor through faults in the subsurface, passing through areas of brine still trapped below. As the brine-covered oil droplets escaped the seafloor and travelled upward towards the surface of the Gulf, their denser layers of brine were shed, falling back to the seafloor. Droplet by droplet, the salt slowly built up a cone around the oil seep. The brown mineral on the volcanoes and the seafloor is unknown.