Last year I was lucky enough to be on board the E/V Nautilus when it made a remarkable discovery in the previously unexplored deepwater of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary—thousands of brooding octopuses. The octopus garden was discovered at the cold, dark depth of 12,000 feet in a rocky area at the base of Davidson seamount. Davidson seamount is a 7,000-foot-tall underwater mountain with its highest peak at 4,000 feet below the surface. So why would a mother octopus pick this spot to lay her eggs, and why would more than a thousand others join her? The crew of the Nautilus is heading back to Monterey Bay to find out.
This week you can watch the live stream at www.NautilusLive.org as they deploy remote operated vehicles (ROVs) to the same spot they made the discovery last year and beyond, into the surrounding unexplored areas. Come for the mesmerizing live video from the ocean depths, and stay to hear scientists in real-time as they work together to answer all the questions we still have about the octopus garden. They’ll collect samples, take video and photos, and take another step towards understanding the incredible wildlife of the deep ocean.
At the top of their to-do list will be to understand the shimmer observed in the water at the site last year. At the time, scientists could not determine what was causing the shimmer, but they speculated that it might explain why so many octopuses would gather at this spot. One theory is that seeps from a long-dead volcano are releasing heat into the water creating this shimmer and that the heat draws the females to that spot to lay their eggs. This time the ROVs will be equipped with sensors and sampling equipment to test this and other theories.
If you think you smell popcorn, that’s just the team at Ocean Conservancy getting ready for the live stream! Stay tuned … we’ll be back with updates on the expedition later this week.