HURL Banner

News and Web Articles generated by HURL work


Jul 02: Searching for History

The July-August 2014 issue of The Military Engineer reports on the multi-phase program known as the Hawaii Undersea Military Munitions Assessment (HUMMA) currently undertaking the unique challenge of characterizing a historic deep-water military munitions disposal site. From its start in 2006 through today, HUMMA has faced several unusual challenges, including an extremely large study area that is in perpetual darkness; complex safety and logistical requirements; and scarce information about the site history, leaving few appropriate benchmarks for investigation design and data evaluation. Margo Edwards, senior research scientist at Hawaii Institute of Geophysics and Planetology (HIGP) is HUMMA’s principal investigator. Read more about it in The Military Engineer. Image courtesy of C. Wollerman / HURL.

Apr 21: Charting the seafloor of Papahānaumokuākea MNM

On 11 April 2014, scientists returned from a 36-day mapping expedition to Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument (PMNM) in the remote Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. PMNM is the largest protected area in the United States, encompassing an area greater than all its national parks combined, yet over half its seafloor has never been mapped in detail due to the limited availability of the advanced sonar systems required. The survey, carried out aboard the Schmidt Ocean Institute’s (SOI) 272-foot R/V Falkor, mapped over 40,000 square kilometers (15,445 square miles) of previously unmapped or poorly mapped areas inside the Monument. This represents approximately 11 percent of the total area of PMNM. Read more about it and watch the video at KITV4; in the UH Mānoa News, in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser (subscription required), and Kaunānā. Image courtesy of C. Kelly / HURL.

Mar 31: Scientists to investigate munitions at sea

Scientists are revisiting previously-found munitions dumped at sea to determine whether the materials still pose a threat to human health and the environment. In 2007, UH was awarded money to conduct the Hawaii Undersea Military Munitions Assessment (HUMMA) in response to KHON2’s “Buried at Sea” series, which uncovered the dumping of thousands of military munitions decades ago just off the Waianae coast. “Specifically, we’re looking for mustard agent,” said HIGP researcher and CIMES director Margo Edwards. “The message that I want to get out is the fact that we are detecting mustard in the sediments about two meters around these munitions.” Read more about and watch the video at KITV4, Hawaii News Now, and KHON2; read more about it in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser (subscription required), Kaunānā, and KHON2. Image courtesy of KHON2.

Feb 12: Human-manned subs being phased out — at what cost…?

An article in the Honolulu Civil Beat profiles Terry Kerby, Hawai’i Undersea Research Laboratory (HURL) chief pilot and director of submarine operations, and reviews the extraordinary history of HURL’s submersible program. HURL expeditions have included the discovery of the historic World War II Japanese midget submarine, groundbreaking research on the new Hawaiian island that is growing east of the Big Island, and played a key role in breakthrough findings on monk seal habitats that have facilitated conservation efforts, to name but a few. But now, says John Wiltshire, the lab’s director, the program is in danger of shutting down. Read more about it the Honolulu Civil Beat. Image courtesy of PF Bentley / Civil Beat; click on it to go to the full version.

Jan 08: HURL enables discovery of long-term ecosystem shift

The Hawai‘i Undersea Research Laboratory (HURL) has enabled scientists to determine that a long-term shift in nitrogen content in the Pacific Ocean has occurred as a result of climate change. Researchers from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) and the University of California – Santa Cruz (UCSC) analyzed deep-sea corals gathered near the Hawaiian Islands using the HURL Pisces V, submersible. They observed overall nitrogen fixation in the North Pacific Ocean has increased by about 20 percent since the mid 1800s and this long-term change appears to be continuing today, according to a study published recently in the journal, Nature. Read more about it in the UH Mānoa News, Kaunānā, and Raising Islands, and Asian American Press. Image, which was used on the cover of Nature, courtesy of M. Cremer / HURL.

Jan 08: Under the surface with HURL

Not too many people know their office equipment as well as Terry Kerby knows his. He spends five months every year taking his apart and then putting it back together, piece by piece. Then again, not too many people rely on their gear to survive at more than 6,000 feet below the ocean's surface. Kerby is chief pilot at the Hawai‘i Undersea Research Laboratory (HURL), commanding its two submersible vehicles, the Pisces IV and the Pisces V, to explore the depths of the ocean. It's a position that gives him “a big rush, like it's the first time,” every time he dives, yet the danger involved is enough to generate chills as well. Read more about it in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser (subscription required). Image courtesy of Craig T. Kojima /




Dec 03: HURL finds WWII aircraft-carrying submarine off O‘ahu

A World War II-era Imperial Japanese Navy mega-submarine, the I-400, lost since 1946 when it was intentionally scuttled by U.S. forces after its capture, has been discovered in more than 2,300 feet of water off the southwest coast of O‘ahu. The discovery resolves a decades-old Cold War mystery of just where the lost submarine lay. The new discovery of the I-400 was led by HURL operations director and chief submarine pilot Terry Kerby. Since 1992, HURL has used its manned submersibles Pisces IV and Pisces V to hunt for submarines and other submerged cultural resources as part of the NOAA maritime heritage research effort. Read more about it and watch the videos at UH System News, the New York Times, CNN, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser (subscription required), and HNGN; read more about it at National Geographic, Honolulu Civil Beat, and WPTV News.

“How to launch a 13-ton submarine, Part 2” | UnderH2O

In part two of the two-part episode of UnderH2O about the submersible operation at the Hawai‘i Undersea Research Lab (HURL), we observe the launch and recovery of the Pisces V submersible from the recently-restored LRT (Launch, Recovery, and Transport) Platform — a marvel of undersea technology.

“How to launch a 13-ton submarine, Part 1” | UnderH2O

In part one of a two-episode by UnderH2O, we look at the submersible operation at the Hawai‘i Undersea Research Lab (HURL), and meet Terry Kerby, a legend of the underwater world. Terry has been piloting submarines for over 30 years. Part two will show the launch and recovery of the Pisces V submersible from the recently-restored LRT (Launch, Recovery, and Transport) Platform. Also, read more about it in the Huffington Post.

September 05 2013: Undersea canyons nourish isles’ deep-water life

Submarine canyons play an important role in maintaining high levels of biodiversity of small invertebrates in the seafloor sediments of the main and northwestern Hawaiian Islands, according to research recently published in the Deep Sea Research Part II. “Canyons may be particularly important in the Hawaiian islands, in part because they supply organic matter to the typically food-limited deep sea,” said lead author Oceanography PhD student Fabio C. De Leo. De Leo and colleagues, including professor Craig Smith, the study’s principal investigator, conducted 34 dives into six canyons and their nearby slopes using HURL’s Pisces submersibles. Read more about it at in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser (subscription required), Science Codex, and the UH System News.

Late Senator Inouye worked with Senator Cochrane to put HURL in their proposed FY13 budget

When our funding was eliminated in 2012, the late Senator Inouye worked to draft language to put us back in the budget. Congress still hasn't voted on a budget for FY13, leaving us in limbo. This flyer highlight's Inouye's proposed language and outlines what is at stake if we don't find funding soon.

February 19th, 2013 – Going Deep - Diving into Deep-Sea Research in Hawaii

Rachel Orange & Dr John Wiltshire represented HURL in a conversation about Deep-Sea Research on the "All Things Marine" radio show sponsored by COSEE Island Earth and hosted by Carlie Wiener "the marine science gal", and program manager for COSEE Island Earth. Download the Podcast (MP3, 41.95 MB)

photos of guests
Rachel Orange, Dr. John Wiltshire, Dr. Jeff Drazen, and Anela Choy join the All Things Marine radio show to talk about deep-sea research.




Mustard Bombs Off Pearl Harbor Investigated for Potential Health Hazards

Thousands of unexploded chemical weapons are sitting on the ocean floor about five miles off of Oahu’s famed southern beaches. Research shows that the military dumped about 16,000 bombs filled with mustard agent, each weighing 100 pounds, off the coast of Pearl Harbor during World War II. At the time, it was a common method of disposal. Now, decades later, with $3 million in funding from the U.S. Army, scientists at the University of Hawai‘i are investigating whether these weapons could be posing a risk to human health or the marine ecosystem. Read more here.

Deep-Sea Animal ID guide available online.

With over 30 years of diving to the deep sea in manned submersibles, scientists at the Hawai‘i Undersea Research Laboratory have seen a plethora of organisms most people will never have a chance to see. As one of the few institutions that creates detailed logs of all video produced with the submersibles, HURL has created and built up a knowledge base that is featured in a photo-guide of all the organisms one might encounter in the deep-sea around Hawai‘i. Until recently, that guide was only available to scientists preparing for upcoming dives. Now scientists around the world, as well as the general public, can access HURL’s deepwater animal photo-guide online. Read the press release here (pdf). KITV report here. Raising Islands report here.

Petition to re-instate HURL Funding

A petition was launched to demonstrate public support for HURL's work. Read more here.

Funding Being HURLed Away

Science Director, John R. Smith, asks scientists that have utilized HURL assets for help generating letters of support to the U.S. Congress, which has the power to re-instating funding for deep-sea research. Read the letter here.

Land-Ocean Connections Discovered Off Moloka‘i

Scientists from SOEST and colleagues from other institutions recently discovered that land-based plant material and coastal macroalgae indirectly support the increased abundances of bottom fish in submarine canyons, like those off the north shore of the island of Moloka‘i. Oceanography PhD candidate Fabio De Leo, lead author of the report, his PhD advisor Craig Smith, and their colleagues used manned submersibles operated by the Hawaii Undersea Research Laboratory (HURL) to perform numerous video transects in two submarine canyons off Moloka‘i at depths ranging from 350 to 1,050 m (~1,000 to ~3,000 ft).
Read more about it in Molokai Dispatch, Science Daily, Science Codex, and Maui Now. You can also download the press release (PDF).

Sea Hunt

Story by Paul Wood in Hana Hou Magazine, Maritime archaeologist Hans Van Tilburg estimates there are some two thousand wrecks in Hawaiian waters -- and he'd like to explore every one of them. (pdf)


Oct 10: UH submariners locate wrecks of three Navy vessels

For more than a decade, the deep-diving crews of the Hawai‘i Undersea Research Laboratory (HURL) have multitasked required annual test dives in their Pisces submersibles with searches for notable shipwrecks off the coast of O‘ahu. "There are a lot of targets we’ve spotted by sonar that we’d like to get to one day," said pilot Terry Kerby, "But there isn’t enough time, so we look when we can." In September, they discovered three wrecks off the South Shore, two of which were craft haunted by terrible Navy disasters.
Read more about it at Honolulu Star-Advertiser (subscription only) and The Republic. Image courtesy of HURL; click on it to see the full version. Honolulu Star-Advertiser Photo Gallery

Sep 28: Stone is first Native Hawaiian to visit Lō‘ihi Seamount

Native Hawaiian practitioner Tom Pohaku Stone is beaming from his trip in HURL’s Pisces IV submersible to visit Lō‘ihi Seamount at a depth of almost 1800 meters.The well-respected administrator of Kanalu, a non-profit focusing on Hawaiian cultural education, received a call from National Geographic asking if he’d join the latest mission to the active volcano off Hawai‘i Island. “Being the first Hawaiian going down, it’s amazing to see the birth of the new island that tutu Pele is working on,” said Stone.
Read more about it and see video at KHON2.

Maldonado, M., L. Navarro, A. Grasa, A. Gonzalez, and I. Vaquerizo (2011).  Silicon uptake by sponges: a twist to understanding nutrient cycling on continental margins. Scientific Reports, doi:10.1038/srep00030

Sandin, Stuart (2010). Farewell to Reefs, Salt Ponds and Milkfish. Scientist at Work, New York Times, Nov. 30, 2010.

Apr 06 : Students virtually participate in 1000th Pisces dive

Nearly 500 students from more than 35 classrooms “virtually” accompanied researchers from the Hawaii Undersea Research Laboratory (HURL) on the 1,000th dive by one of the lab’s twin Pisces manned-submersibles. The students participating in Creep into the Deep: Virtual Research Mission to the Deep-sea communicated with scientists aboard the Pisces V submersible from classrooms around the country via email updates, photos, and video.
Read more about it at, Our Amazing Planet, and NOAA News.


Jul 27 : Dumped munitions: no adverse effects… for now

Hawai‘i Institute of Geophysics and Planetology (HIGP) researcher Margo Edwards lead a three-year investigation of military chemical weapons dumped during and after World War II at a deep-water site five miles south of Pearl Harbor; her team reports that the dumped munitions “do not indicate any adverse impacts on ecological health” right now, but continued monitoring is warranted. Two Hawai‘i Undersea Research Laboratory (HURL) submersibles were used to take water and sediment samples that were analyzed for chemical agents and other hazards.
Read more about it in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser here (added 08-23-10) and here,, and in the SOEST press release (PDF). Image courtesy of HUMMA and HURL.

Jun 21 : Students focus on science of undersea volcanoes

The Marine Advanced Technology Education (MATE) Center’s ROV competition will be held at University of Hawai‘i at Hilo, on the Big Island of Hawai‘i, from June 24 to 26, 2010. The theme of the competition is “undersea volcanoes and the role that underwater robots, known as remotely operated vehicles (ROVs), play in their science and exploration.” The Hawai‘i Undersea Research Laboratory (HURL) helped MATE to develop this year’s mission scenarios about the science and exploration of Lo‘ihi. UPDATE: Congratulations to this year’s winners: the team from Hanalani School in Mililani!
View the video at Big Island Video; read more about it at Hawaii 24/7, AScribe, and in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser (link revised 07-12-10).

Apr 09 : Undersea canyons teeming with life

In an article in the journal Marine Ecology, Hawai‘i Pacific University (HPU) associate professor Eric Vetter, UH Mānoa Oceanography (OCE) professor Craig Smith, and UH PhD candidate Fabio De Leo describe undersea canyons a mile to three miles offshore surrounding Hawai‘i as possible “hot spots of biological diversity” that may serve as nurseries to replenish less abundant areas. “Quite a few species are potentially new to science and many may well be endemic to canyons,” Smith said.
Read more about it in the Honolulu Advertiser, the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, News@UH, and redOrbit.

01/05/10 -- HURL Team Featured in "Killer Subs in Pearl Harbor" on PBS NOVA


Dec 16: “Bizarre” sponges, corals found on deep sea floor

During recent mile-deep submersible dives in the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, Hawai‘i Undersea Research Laboratory (HURL) scientists filmed many previously unknown corals and sponges—some “like something out of Dr Suess”—for the first time in high-definition video. The HD video is so good they expect to be able to identify some animals without having to collect specimens.
Read more about it in the Honolulu Advertiser.

Dec 14: Sea yields clues to ’41 attack

New evidence discovered by the Hawai‘i Undersea Research Laboratory (HURL) indicating that the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor effectively from under water, as well as from the air, was announced by the “NOVA” television series on the anniversary of the 07 December 1941 attack that drew the United States into World War II.
Read more about it at Honolulu Star-Bulletin. Videos at, Honolulu Advertiser, and Hawaii News Now.

Nov 12: Top-secret WWII Japanese combat subs discovered

Two World War II Japanese submarines, designed with revolutionary technology to attack the U.S. mainland, have been discovered off the Hawaiian coast of O‘ahu, it was announced by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Hawai‘i Undersea Research Laboratory (HURL), and the National Geographic Channel (NGC). The wreckage will be seen for the first time in “Hunt for the Samurai Subs,” premiering Tuesday 17 November 2009 on NGC (in high definition).
Read more about it in the New York Times, the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, the Honolulu Advertiser, and the SOEST Press Release. HURL Team Featured in "Hunt for Samurai Subs" on National Geographic's Expedition Week

Sep 04 : He has one of the coolest jobs in Hawai‘i

Terry Kerby is the chief pilot for the Hawai‘i Undersea Research Laboratory (HURL). He leads expeditions in HURL’s submersibles to research areas a mile and more beneath the sea, investigating sites as diverse as active undersea volcanoes such as Lo‘ihi, south of the Big Island, sunken ships, and lost surplus WWII weapons. “After 30 years of piloting,” says Kerby, “it’s the same rush as I had doing it for the first time.”
Read more about it at Honolulu Magazine.

Aug 13 : HURL gets $2.8 million in NOAA funding

U.S. Senators Daniel K. Akaka and Daniel K. Inouye announced today that the Hawai‘i Undersea Research Laboratory (HURL) has been awarded $2,881,455 for Fiscal Year 2009 by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). “The valuable information gained can help us plan for climate change and improve management and restoration of vital ocean resources,” Akaka said. “[HURL] is vital to the study and understanding of deep ocean processes,” Inouye said.
Read more about it in the Honolulu Advertiser.

Wiltshire, J. (2009). Felipe Arzayus (ed.) Exploring the South Pacific: Witnessing the birth of an undersea mountain. NOAA 200th Anniversary Celebration Article:

Wiltshire, J. (2009). Felipe Arzayus (ed.) Witnessing the birth of an undersea mountain… and other exciting discoveries! NOAA Spotlight Feature Article:

Mar 23 : Corals in deep water off Hawai‘i over 4200 years old

John Smith, Science Director of the Hawai‘i Undersea Research Laboratory (HURL) discusses findings from deep-sea dives near O‘ahu and the Big Island in 2004. Researchers at Lawrence Livermore, Stanford, and UC Santa Cruz recently determined that corals of the species Leiopathes collected by HURL submersibles are over 4,200 years old, making them some of the oldest living organisms on earth.
Read about it and watch the video at KHON2; read more about it in VOA News,, Xinhua and the Houston Chronicle.

Mar 13 : Submersibles collect samples near munitions

Two Hawai‘i Undersea Research Laboratory (HURL) submersibles have been collecting water and sediment samples near disposed WWII munitions dumped south of Pearl Harbor. “I think it’s important for the safety of the people of the state of Hawai‘i,” said Dr. Margo Edwards, Hawai‘i Mapping Research Group (HMRG) director and principal investigator of the project. “I mean, we’d like to know that our water is safe, that our food is safe to eat, and that’s what we’re trying to address with this project.”
See a video about the project at and Read more about it in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin hereand here, at MSNBC, and KHNL NBC 8. Image courtesy of HURL / Honolulu Advertiser; click on it to see the full version. Update! More findings are reported in the Honolulu Advertiser.

03/12/09 -- HURL Researchers featured on National Geographic's "Drain the Ocean"

Mar 05 : New species, genera, of bamboo coral identified

Working among the islands of Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, scientists using a HURL submersible research vessel surveyed deep-sea corals thousands of feet below the ocean surface. Discoveries include seven new species of bamboo coral identified so far. “The potential for more discoveries is high, but these deep-sea corals are not protected everywhere as they are here, and can easily be destroyed,” said Oceanography associate professor Christopher Kelley.
See a video about the project at Read more about it NOAA’s news page, the Honolulu Advertiser (link revised 03-30-09) and SF Gate.

Feb 25 : Accessing 1944 offshore chemical weapons dump

Two Hawai‘i Undersea Research Laboratory (HURL) submersibles, Pisces IV and Pisces V, will spend 15 days beginning Monday 02 March 2009 filming and taking water and sediment samples south of Pearl Harbor as part of an Army project to determine the risks associated with thousands of M47-A2 bombs, containing almost 600 tons of mustard gas, dumped off the south shore of the island of O‘ahu in 1944. Between 1932 and 1944, bombs containing several kinds of chemical weapons were discarded.
Read more about it in Honolulu Star-Bulletin and at

Jan 09 -- Large 6-gill shark off of Molokai gets attention on YouTube


03/05/08 -- Featured in "Best of Honolulu" issue of Honolulu Magazine


08/10/05 -- The Hawai‘i Undersea Research Laboratory and the crew of the R/V Ka‘imikai-O-Kanaloa return from a highly successful deep-diving cruise in the South Pacific exploring submarine volcanoes. During this multi-national, five-month cruise, they traveled 10,000 nautical miles and made numerous discoveries in the fields of marine biology and geophysics.
Read more about it in the NOAA news article and the Honolulu Star Bulletin
and the Message from the Under Secretary

Kahng, S.E. (2005). Unwelcome invaders. Alien soft coral invades Hawaii coral reef community. University of Hawaii Sea Grant Makai newsletter

Kahng, S.E. (2005). A silent invasion threatens to overrun pristine black coral beds and alter Hawaii’s deep reef community. NOAA National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science* website

Kelley, C. and T. Kerby (2005). Recent Encounters with Great White Sharks in Hawaiian Waters. NOAA Research, Archive of Spotlight Feature Articles, 2005.

03/18/05 -- KOK loaded with Pisces IV & V embarks on 5-month expedition to Am. Samoa and New Zealand. See Star Bulletin.

03/17/05 -- During test dives HURL finds largest diesel submarine ever operated. See Star Bulletin article.

Eakins, B.W., J.E. Robinson, T. Kanamatsu, J. Naka, J.R. Smith, E. Takahashi, and D.A. Clague. Hawaii's volcanoes revealed: U.S. Geological Survey Geologic Investigations Series I-2809, (2003) [URL].


12/08/02 -- HURL's discovery of a Japanese mini submarine was featured on War Stories with Oliver North on Fox News

11/12/02 -- HURL researchers collected a beautiful living soft coral (Anthomastus sp.) for the Waikiki Aquarium

10/17/02 -- Chris Kelley, John Smith, and Rachel Shackelford represented HURL on KidScience's Journey to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands

09/28/02 -- HURL discovers Japanese mini submarine that was sunk on Dec. 7, 1941

[ Top of page ]