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ASPIRE—Exploring the Atlantic Deep Sea

The 2019 Southeastern U.S. Deep-sea Exploration (EX1906 and EX1907) was a 43-day, two-leg, telepresence-enabled expedition to collect critical baseline information about unknown and poorly understood deepwater areas of the Southeastern U.S. continental margin.

Map of currently identified ASPIRE expeditions (2016–19).
Map of currently identified ASPIRE expeditions (2016–19).

DOI’s BOEM and the USGS are key Federal partners with the NOAA-led ASPIRE effort in exploring the Atlantic Ocean along with international partners from the European Union and Canada. The NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer is supporting operations with partners in the region from 2018 to 2020 to build on initial ASPIRE fieldwork conducted in 2016 and 2017.

Photo of colorful corals growing on the ocean floor.
This coral garden was discovered in the Stetson-Miami Deepwater HAPC during the 2019 Southeastern U.S. Deep-sea Exploration in an area that may mark the eastern extent of the Million Mounds region.

The 2019, the ASPIRE Southeastern U.S. Deep-sea Exploration included expeditions 1906 and 1907 and was, in total, a 43-day, two-leg, telepresence-enabled expedition where DOI joined NOAA and other partners in mapping and conducting remotely operated vehicle (ROV) operations. Each ASPIRE expedition has its own objectives that support the goals of the larger campaign. The 2019 exploration collected baseline information about unknown and poorly understood deep-water areas of the southeastern U.S. continental margin (see map). It addressed scientific themes and priority areas identified by NOAA, other Federal agencies, regional management agencies, and the ocean science community. The expedition entailed mapping and ROV operations, filling data gaps in the region toward Seabed 2030 goals for mapping unexplored regions of Earth’s ocean and exploring a variety of deep-sea features.

In addition, the expeditions engaged the public through live interactions, live streamed video, expedition web content, and media/web stories. In case you missed it, you can watch recorded videos from the ROV dives and read about major accomplishments in the exploration summary on the 2019 Southeastern U.S. Deep-sea Exploration website.

The Atlantic Seafloor Partnership for Integrated Research and Exploration (ASPIRE)

ASPIRE is a NOAA-led major multiyear, multinational collaborative ocean exploration field program focused on raising collective knowledge and understanding of the North Atlantic Ocean (meaning north of the equator and including the Atlantic U.S.). Building on the successes of the 2012–13 Atlantic Canyons Undersea Mapping Expeditions (ACUMEN), the ASPIRE campaign will broaden the geographic focus to include more of the U.S. Atlantic and the high seas. The campaign will provide data to inform and support research planning and management decisions in the region.


Seabed 2030 is a collaborative project between the Nippon Foundation of Japan and the General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans (GEBCO). It aims to bring together all available bathymetric data to produce the definitive map of the world ocean floor by 2030 and make it available to all.

The project was launched at the United Nations (UN) Ocean Conference in June 2017 and is aligned with the UN's Sustainable Development Goal #14 to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas, and marine resources.

Knowing the depth and shape of the seafloor (bathymetry) is fundamental for understanding ocean circulation, tides, tsunami forecasting, fishing resources, sediment transport, environmental change, underwater geohazards, cable and pipeline routing, mineral extraction, oil and gas exploration and development, infrastructure construction and maintenance, and much more.

Despite many years of effort, less than 20 percent of the ocean’s seafloor has been mapped. This coordinated international effort is needed to bring together all existing data sets and to identify areas for future surveys to help “map the gaps.” Learn more:

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