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HURL’s Top 10 Accomplishments over the Past 30 Years

  1. Initiating the HURL science dive program on July 14, 1981 when Makali‘i made the first dive into the Oak Crater in Eniwetak Atoll.  This project included scientists from the Defense Nuclear Agency, Lawrence Livermore Labs, and the Air Force Weapons Agency to conduct studies in the crater made by the first hydrogen bomb ever tested.  HURL conducted three months of diving operations at Eniwetak Atoll with additional scientists from the Bishop Museum, the University of Hawai‘i, MPRL, the West Indies Lab, University of California, the Smithsonian, and others.  The Eniwetak expedition launched HURL as a science diving program.
  2. Discovering the Japanese midget submarine (2002) which was identified, fired upon, and sunk by the destroyer USS Ward trying to enter Pearl Harbor just prior to the aerial attack on Dec 7, 1941.  It represents the first shot of the entry of the United States into WWII and has been the subject of several full length documentaries.  HURL has worked with various NOAA offices and partner agencies including the National Marine Sanctuaries Program and the National Park Service to examine its condition, carry out corrosion testing, and document it with the intent of preserving this valuable maritime heritage site for posterity.
  3. Facilitating the long term study of Lo‘ihi submarine volcano for nearly 25 years, documenting the growth of a new Hawaiian island including its explosive history, investigating the tsunami risk from collapse events as in 1996, and analyzing its unique and extreme ecosystems.  Such research has resulted in the first full genome characterization of a deep sea hydrothermal vent organism - Idiomarina loihiensis, which is a deep sea living gamma-proteobacterium.  HURL's latest achievement is the first two-sub dive series inside the active Pele's Pit volcanic summit crater (2011) for a National Geographic documentary shot with 3D HD technology.

  4. Supporting the research of scientists from Stanford University and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory who found that deep sea corals are some of the oldest living organisms on Earth (2003 – 2007).  Their innovative approach in applying radiocarbon dating techniques to branches from coral trees have shown gold corals (Gerardia sp) to be 2742 yrs old and deep water black corals (Leiopathes sp) to be 4265 yrs old, projected to be up to 10,000 yrs old for the latter when the diameter of the tree base is considered.  Benefits and importance of these results include a moratorium on the commercial harvesting on such corals in Hawaii; and this long temporal history allows their use as proxies of climate change.
  5. Continuing a long term presence in, and study of, the pristine ecosystems of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, which is both the single largest conservation area under U.S. jurisdiction and one of the largest marine protected areas in the world.  While a fair bit of work has been devoted to the shallow water ecosystems immediately surrounding the islands and atolls, relatively little effort has been focused on the flanks, banks, seamounts, and ridges below 100 meters, which makes up 98% of the protected area.  Examples of HURL's service and stewardship in this deep water realm include:  a) first filming of endangered Hawaiian Monk Seals at nearly 500 m depth in gold coral (Gerardia sp) beds, suggesting that the beds may provide critical Monk Seal foraging habitat (2003), b) discovery of an estimated 80+ new species of corals and sponges there, many of which are still being analyzed (2001 – 2009), and c) extensive contribution to the multibeam mapping effort of the monument (2000 – 2011).
  6. Sporting an extended history of technical innovation and operational leadership in support of scientific research and resource management goals.  Examples include:  a) development of the methodology for, and implementation of, joint technical 'wet' rebreather diver and submersible operations (2011) in support of a major multi-year mesophotic coral research project (2007 – 2011) sponsored by the NOAA Deep Coral Reef Ecosystems Studies (CSCOR) and the Coral Reef Conservation Program, b) first deployment of the Deep Ocean Mass Spectrometer (DOMS), a quantum leap for in situ high resolution chemical analysis (2011), and c) development of the submergible Launch, Recovery and Transport (LRT) platforms to deploy HURL's submersibles in higher sea states with larger instrument packages (early 1980's – 1993, presently being brought back online).
  7. Committing to public outreach and education.  Examples:  a) The Hexanchus six-gilled shark video from a north Molokai submarine canyon dive is now NOAA’s top YouTube clip at 1.3 million views and climbing (2006), and b) in April 2011, nearly 500 students from 35 K-8 classrooms across the country “virtually” accompanied researchers from the University of Hawaii, Bishop Museum, and NOAA’s Hawaii Undersea Research Laboratory (HURL) on the 1,000th dive by one of the lab’s twin Pisces manned-submersibles.  Similar programs following along with HURL cruises in 2009 and 2010 have added another 1350 K-12 students. 
  8. Providing the “Biggest Bang for the Buck”:  Operating two manned submersibles with a crew of five specialists at close to 100% success rate for over ten years is unique in the industry. Adding two more personnel for ROV operations and another for multibeam mapping rounds out the 24/7 package of capabilities that HURL offers.  Other over-the-side operations (e.g., CTD rosettes, fish traps, drop cameras) are also possible from the support ship R/V Kaimiaki-o-Kanaloa on these cruises.  Since 1981, HURL sponsored researchers have spent nearly 9,000 hours underwater around the Pacific.
  9. Undertaking the most ambitious cruise ever organized in the 30-year history of HURL in the Central and Southwestern Pacific region over five months in 2005, involving 58 scientists from four countries and 12 universities and research institutes.  The 14,500 nm routing of this expedition took the HURL program from Honolulu to American Samoa and from there proceeded to the Tonga-Kermadec arc on the way to New Zealand.  The return trip passed through the U.S. Line Islands with dives in these remote island areas which have since become marine national monuments.  In all, eight separate cruise legs covered 21 different study sites with 78 successful Pisces submersible and ROV dives completed, along with over-the-side instrument deployments, mooring recoveries, and multibeam bathymetric surveys.  Funding for this modern day “Lewis and Clark” expedition of the deep sea included awards from NURP, NIUST, and OE along with several international partners.
  10. Extracting useful biological data from all dive video in-house regardless of the dive’s purpose and generating products derived from this activity such as HURL’s biological database and HURL’s deepwater animal photo-gallery and photo identification guide. HURL is one of only two deepwater submergence facilities in the world that have had a long term commitment to routinely extracting biological and substrate data from their dive video archives.

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