Expedition to Explore Underwater Plateau, Shipwrecks Off Atlantic Coast

"It could be barren rock and sediment. It could be teeming with life"

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An expedition is underway that will explore unmapped areas off the U.S. Atlantic Coast.

The Charlotte Observer reports that scientists are particularly interested in an underwater plateau that sits about 440 miles off Virginia. But they're also prepared to find undiscovered shipwrecks between North Carolina and Rhode Island.

The two-week expedition by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration began last week and is set to finish up June 27.

The deep sea anomaly off Virginia's coast is known as the Caryn Seamount. It rises about 6,500 feet (2,000 meters) over an otherwise flat section of ocean floor.

Kasey Cantwell, operations chief for NOAA Ocean Exploration, told the newspaper that the Caryn Seamount is "like a little (submerged) island way offshore, and no one’s ever been there before. We’re hoping to learn a lot more about it.”

The team plans to collect samples in hopes that geologists can better understand the seamount’s origins.

“It could be barren rock and sediment. It could be teeming with life. It could be a mix of both, depending on what side or depth of the seamount we look at,” expedition coordinator Matt Dornback said.

The team also intends to collect images and data on shipwrecks using new equipment that is being tested.

“This is known to be an area where lots of ships were lost in the past. Finding shipwrecks is always potential along the East Coast, and we absolutely hope we find them,” Cantwell said.

The team also expects to find methane gas seeps that bubble from the seafloor. The scientists also want to record “predation events” in which animals start eating each other.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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