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NOAA deep oceanThere's an otherworldly, alien world down in the depths of the Gulf of Mexico.Image courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, Gulf of Mexico 2017.

There's a fotorucksack spectacular, uncharted alien world right off the Gulf Coast, and a recent National Oceanic and Atmospheric (NOAA) expedition sought to uncover its secrets.

This past December, a NOAA team, aboard the Okeanos Explorer, conducted the first of three month-long studies of the deepest parts of the Gulf of Mexico, with the dual aim of exploring the diversity of deep-water habitats and mapping the seafloor. 

Using a mix of remote-operated submersibles (ROVs), and shore-based instruments, the team brought back stunning images of previously unexplored areas. 

Here's a sample of what they found in the inky depths:

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A submersible explores a shipwreck first spotted by an offshore drilling exploration firm in 2002.

A submersible explores a shipwreck first spotted by an offshore drilling exploration firm in 2002. Image courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, Gulf of Mexico 2017.

The submersible, Deep Discoverer, conducted a full archaeological survey of the wreck, collecting 3D mosaic images and analyzing the life living on it. NOAA's researchers believe the ship is a merchant vessel dating back to around 1830. 

In this image, you can see a tiny snake star, surrounded by the spiny arms of larger sea stars coiled among the branches of a coral, at a depth of 1,315 feet.

In this image, you can see a tiny snake star, surrounded by the spiny arms of larger sea stars coiled among the branches of a coral, at a depth of 1,315 feet. Image courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, Gulf of Mexico 2017.

A spider crab hitches a ride on a giant isopod in the isopod's burrow tunnel at a depth of 1,788 feet.

A spider crab hitches a ride on a giant isopod in the isopod's burrow tunnel at a depth of 1,788 feet. Image courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, Gulf of Mexico 2017

Giant isopods are deep-ocean varieties of pill bugs, and they're found in cold, deep waters all over the planet. The largest specimens have been found to grow over 30 inches long, and weigh in at close to four pounds. 

Two deep-sea male red crabs are pictured here in an intense duel.

Two deep-sea male red crabs are pictured here in an intense duel. Image courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, Gulf of Mexico 2017.

Similar to males of many species, the scientists believed these bottom-dwellers were fighting for the affection of a nearby female — but, because of a brief observation period, they can't be certain. 

Pictured here is a tripod fish, with parasitic isopods attached to two of its fins.

Pictured here is a tripod fish, with parasitic isopods attached to two of its fins. The tripod fish, Bathypterois viridensis, with parasitic isopods attached to two of its fins. Tripod fishes rest on the seafloor on the tips of elongated rays of their pelvic and lower caudal fins. They use the elongated rays of their pectoral fins as sensory “antennae” that project out and forward as the fish sits facing into the current.Image courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, Gulf of Mexico 2017.

Tripod fish rest on the seafloor — facing into the current — and use their elongated fins as sensory "antenna" to catch unsuspecting prey, according to NOAA. 

Pictures here is a deep-water variety of marine smelt, from the genus Leptochilichthys.

Pictures here is a deep-water variety of marine smelt, from the genus Leptochilichthys. Fish experts on the global midwater team were blown away by the appearance of this fish from the genus Leptochilichthys. The observation placed this fish at a shallow depth of 900 meters (2,953 feet), when typical observations place this fish squarely in the bathypelagic zone at 2,000 meters (6,562 feet).Image courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, Gulf of Mexico 2017.

NOAA's researchers were astounded to see this fish at the relatively shallow depth of 2,953 feet. Typically, this species has only been observed below depths of approximately 6,000 feet. 

A colonial tuscarorid phaeodarean is pictured here feeding on marine snow — the nutrients (including fish excrement) that drop from shallow waters higher in the water dakine sequence pack fotorucksack 33l column — at a depth of 2,300 feet.

A colonial tuscarorid phaeodarean is pictured here feeding on marine snow — the nutrients (including fish excrement) that drop from shallow waters higher in the water column — at a depth of 2,300 feet. Image courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, Gulf of Mexico 2017.

This creature hasn't been widely studied by scientists. It's composed of colonies of individual cells, which secrete silica shells. The shells combine to create a fine silica mesh that surrounds the colony. 

A deep-sea rendezvous: A sea cucumber and a shrimp wander past each other in the submersible's lights.

A deep-sea rendezvous: A sea cucumber and a shrimp wander past each other in the submersible's lights. Image courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, Gulf of Mexico 2017.

Pictures here is an umbellula sea pen, with a mysid shrimp keeping it company.

Pictures here is an umbellula sea pen, with a mysid shrimp keeping it company. Umbellula sea pens are sediment dwellers. This one has a mysid keeping it company. Mysids are commonly known as opossum shrimp, because they have brood pouches. You can catch a glimpse of the full red brood pouch as two red dots on either side of this mysid’s midsection.Image courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, Gulf of Mexico 2017.

Mysids are known as opossum shrimp because they have marsupial-like pouches. You can see this shrimp's full brood pouch as two red dots on either side of its midsection. 

This grumpy-looking cusk eel is pictured at a depth of 1,585 feet.

This grumpy-looking cusk eel is pictured at a depth of 1,585 feet. A particularly grumpy-looking ophidiiform cusk eel encountered at a depth of 1,585 meters (5,200 feet) during Dive 12.Image courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, Gulf of Mexico 2017.

Scientists were unsure as to why this eel was so grumpy, but maybe you would be too if a strange, bright, submersible gawked at you while you were going about your daily business. 

This cute little guy is a dumbo octopus, the deepest-dwelling octopus.

This cute little guy is a dumbo octopus, the deepest-dwelling octopus. Image courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research

This image was taken from NOAA's previous expedition to the Gulf of Mexico in 2014, but it was too good to leave out. 





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