Ballard Lead Expedition to Flower Garden Banks Marine Sanctuary From March 3-9, 2007, Dr. Robert Ballard and an interdisciplinary team of scientists explored the undersea landscape of NOAA's Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary (FGBNMS). One of the 13 U.S. national marine sanctuaries, the FGBNMS is located approximately 115 miles off the Texas/Louisiana coast. Named for its colorful corals and sponges, the sanctuary was targeted for exploration because of its unique geology and biology. Its geological history also makes it a viable location to search for evidence of early human habitation that could predate current evidence of North America's first inhabitants. This expedition is a collaboration between the NOAA, the Institute for Exploration (IFE), Immersion Presents, the University of Rhode Island and the U.S. Navy. "We are fortunate to be able to explore these areas using state of the art scientific equipment, and to share these experiences with people in real time," said George Schmahl, superintendent of the FGBNMS. Deepwater exploration of the FGBNMS will be made possible by the U.S. Navy's NR-1-the nation's only nuclear-powered submarine dedicated to underwater research. Supported by the 238-ft. SSV Carolyn Chouest, the NR-1 carries video cameras, sample-collection equipment and tools to map the sea floor. A high-definition camera and sensors on IFE's remotely operated vehicle (ROV) Argus, towed behind the Carolyn Chouest, provided researchers with additional images and information about the sanctuary's habitats and marine life. The expedition team employed state-of-the-art "telepresence" techwww.seadiscovery.com nology to enable students, educators, scientists and the general public back on shore to follow the Secrets of the Gulf expedition 24/7 in real-time. Principal Investigators Ballard and McBride will use this same telepresence technology to lead the expedition from a remote science console based at Mystic Aquarium & Institute for Exploration. Marine Technology Reporter 19
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