Scientists Explore Cook Seamount in Hawaii

Intrepid explorers from the University of Hawaii and the nonprofit group Conservation International have recently been to Cook seamount, a previously unexplored extinct volcano located at a depth of 3,000 feet about 100 miles southwest of the Big Island. They found many fascinating creatures, including one coral in particular that the scientists believe could be a new species.

Clinging to the seamount’s cliffs, the mysterious coral boasts a rich violet color, which prompted the scientists to give it the nickname “Purple Haze.”  They also spotted what appeared to be two Dumbo octopuses, one of which changed color from white to pink and finally reddish brown as it passed the submersible. These were the most exciting sightings, but there were also starfish, crabs, eels, shrimp, sharks, and chimaera, also known as “ghost sharks.”

Seamounts are particularly interesting to scientists because they are created by active or dormant volcanoes, which tend to generate nutrients that well up into the waters above. This fosters dynamic deep sea ecosystems full of weird and fascinating creatures. Although seamounts are believed to cover around 18 million square miles of the planet, they remain largely unexplored, which is why Conservation International aims to study 50 of them in the next five years.

The 80 million-year-old Cook seamount rises 13,000 feet from the ocean floor, but that still leaves it 3,000 feet from the ocean’s surface where no sunlight can penetrate. Only the submersibles provided light, so the scientists could observe the marine life at such a depth, that and the occasional bioluminescent creature that drifted by.

Hawaii is a hotspot for biodiversity, and access to deep ocean submersibles have facilitated a growing parade of discoveries. But if you’d like to observe Hawaii’s stunning array of sea creatures, you don’t have to plunge into the deep ocean to find them. Both our Molokini Snorkel Tour and Lanai Snorkel Tour will whisk you off to some of the most fantastic reefs in reach from Maui. We look forward to helping you discover these remarkable ecosystems. If you need our assistance, you’ll find our contact information at the bottom of the page. Mahalo!