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SECRETS OF THE GULF EXPEDITION, MARCH 2007--DEEP REEF

A major goal of the Secrets of the Gulf expedition was to explore parts of the northwestern Gulf of Mexico that lie beyond SCUBA diving depths (below130 feet). The expedition route began at West Flower Garden Bank then traveled east along the continental shelf to visit East Flower Garden Bank, Rankin Bank and Bright Bank. Between each of these banks, Argus and NR-1 examined many other areas of interest as determined from bathymetry maps previously created by sanctuary staff.

The photos below show a variety of deepwater habitats encountered throughout the course of the expedition. Argus captured images of deeper parts of the coral cap at West Flower Garden Bank, mud volcanoes between East and West Flower Garden Banks, open mud bottom, fields of algal nodules, deep reef formations dominated by gorgonians and black corals, and the brine lake at the base of East Flower Garden Bank.

Additional expedition images can be viewed at the following links:

Click on a picture below to see a larger, hi-resolution image. All images should be credited to the Institute for Exploration and the University of Rhode Island Institute for Archeological Oceanography (IFE/URIIAO).

Coral reef cap at the Flower Garden Banks NMS
Coral reef cap at West Flower Garden Bank.
Coral reef cap at the Flower Garden Banks NMS
Still exploring the coral cap at West Flower Garden Bank.
An Almaco jack leading the way for the ROV Argus
Down deep with an Almaco jack (Seriola rivoliana) leading the way.
A school of squid fleeing from the ROV Argus
A school of squid fleeing from Argus.
A shortnose batfish on the muddy sea floor
A shortnose batfish (Ogcocephalus cf. nasutus) resting on the bottom in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico.
A crab and several critter tracks on the muddy sea floor
A prickly spider crab (Stenocionops spinimana) surrounded by tracks and trails of other creatures.
Tube anemones on the sea floor
Tube anemones dotting the muddy sea floor.
Barq's soda can in deepwater habitat
Marine debris even finds its way to the deep parts of the continental shelf. Do fish like rootbeer?
Bottlebrush black corals
Bottlebrush coral (Elatopathes abietina), a variety of black coral.
An abundance of crinoids and corals in deepwater
Several varieties of crinoids and corals in deepwater communities of the northwestern Gulf of Mexico.
Octocoral and solitary cup coral in deepwater
An octocoral (Scleracis sp.) alongside a solitary cup coral (Oxysmilia rotundifolia) .
Black coral bush in the Gulf of Mexico
Black coral bush (Tanacetipathes barbadensas) in the Gulf of Mexico.
Black corals and octocorals in deepwater communities
Black corals and octocorals in deepwater communities.
Wire coral, a type of black coral
Wire coral (Stichopathes leutkeni), a black coral, with two curled up basket stars attached.
Streamer bass species swarming over a deep reef formation
Streamer bass species swarming over a deep reef formation.
Creolefish schooling around black corals and gorgonians
Creolefish schooling around black corals and gorgonians in deepwater habitat.
Deep reef habitat in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico
Deep reef habitat.
Deep reef habitat in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico
Deep reef habitat.
Deep reef habitat in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico
Deep reef habitat.
Possible ancient shoreline in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico
Ancient shoreline? According to data from Argus, this area between Rankin and Bright Banks may have once been seashore.
Warsaw grouper deep in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico
Warsaw grouper (Epinephelus nigritus) deep in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico.
Algal nodules covering the sea floor
Algal nodules covering the sea floor.
Deepwater habitat at Bright Bank
A scamp grouper (Mycteroperca phenax) and two cubbyu (Pareques umbrosus) in deepwater habitat at Bright Bank, east of Flower Garden Banks NMS.
Deepwater habitat at Bright Bank
A bank butterflyfish (Prognathodes aya) amid several varieties of crinoids and coral in deepwater habitat at Bright Bank.
Large anchor on the sea floor at Bright Bank
Large anchor on the sea floor at Bright Bank.
Anchor left behind at Bright Bank
Another anchor left behind at Bright Bank.
Excavation pit left by treasure hunters at Bright Bank
Excavation pit left by treasure hunters searching for the supposed wreck of a Spanish galleon at Bright Bank.
More evidence of treasure hunting activity at Bright Bank
More evidence of treasure hunting activity at Bright Bank.



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Juvenile blue tang (fish).  Bright yellow body with irridescent blue marking around eye and at top edge of dorsal fin.
   
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