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NOAA research ship deployed in Am Samoa area now until September

NOAA Ship ‘Raineir’
Crew will be collecting information on changing ocean conditions

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The U.S National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) research vessel, ‘Raineir’, named after Mount Rainier — an active volcano ascending to 14,410 feet above sea level, which stands as an icon in the Washington state landscape, is scheduled to arrive today, Mar. 23 in the territory.

According to the National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa, the 231-foot “Rainier” is carrying scientists and crew around the islands of American Samoa and the Pacific Remote Island Areas.

They will conduct ocean surveys to map the ocean floor and scuba dive to collect information on corals, fish, and changing ocean conditions. These surveys are non-invasive, and do not involve taking any marine life. The information, once gathered, will be shared and used to update nautical navigation charts and to improve scientists’ and resource managers' understanding of the islands' coral reefs.

Residents may see this ship offshore of the territory between now and September. And the research ship will operate 24 hours a day, often using research equipment, deploying divers, or following specific survey lines with limited maneuverability.

The ship has four small 28-foot boats called “launches,” which are lowered into the water to survey in shallow areas and support divers working under water. Multibeam echo sounders measure the depth and provide a detailed image of the seafloor using sound waves. Underwater, scientists record fish and habitat data, collect images of the ocean floor, and swap out instruments.

Other key messages on this important ocean survey, according to NOAA:

•           Together, this joint mission will deliver high‐quality data, data products, and tools to the region including a seamless map linking hilltops to underwater depths and integrated data on the surrounding coral reef ecosystems. 

•           These data can provide information for countless users to make critical management decisions within disciplines such as habitat management, tsunami modeling, monitoring and marine resource management.

•           National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa staff will join this cross-NOAA expedition for one leg to support the Deep Coral Reef Ecosystem Study program funded by NOAA National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science. 

•           Very little is known about the mesophotic coral ecosystems (>30m) in American Samoa and most of the past work has been conducted only around Tutuila. This effort will survey mesophotic areas at Rose Atoll, Swains Island, and the Manu’a islands.

•           This cruise provides the only source of ocean acidification and coral reef health, status and trends information for many locations in the region. This is a major effort to document coral reef health and ocean change.

•           Surveys across a wide variety of reefs gives us power to understand about the drivers of reef health and help us predict future impacts. 

•           American Samoa has some of the least acidified waters in the world, making it a natural laboratory for understanding how corals do in the face of ocean acidification and how to prepare coral reefs and the people who depend on them.

For additional information on the vessel’s visit, contact the National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa office - located at the Tauese P.F Sunia Ocean Center in Utulei - at 633-6500.