This video presents some of the most startlingly clear underwater images we’ve ever seen. They were captured off Hawaii by NOAA’s 2015 Hohonu Moana expedition, and now are displayed as part of its Ocean Today interactive exhibit.*
Hawaii is the most remote inhabited island chain in the world, and as a result, it’s home to a coral population that’s abnormally lacking in diversity. Still, since this is the deepest a camera has ever gone beneath the waves of Hawaii’s Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, NOAA’s scientists consider the mission an “exciting and historic” moment—and they should. It’s unexplored terrain.
As we watch, we get to eavesdrop on the scientists’ obviously excited reactions to the footage and what they see. The current in the area has surprising strength, and the coral aligns itself so it can feed on particles flowing by. This is a premium habitat where coral growth is slow, at about two centimeters a year.
The camera finds some coral that’s taller than a human, at two meters in height. A bamboo coral doesn’t look at all like what should be found around here, and a corallium has what appear to be mesenteric filaments unlike anything the scientists have ever seen.
This isn’t exactly the community of corals scientists expected to find, but of course, that’s part of the thrill.
Update, Feb. 19, 2016: This post has been updated to clarify which NOAA entity captured the footage.