EV Nautilus photo journal pt. 1 | Deep sea exploration in American Samoa

EV Nautilus photo journal pt. 1 | Deep sea exploration in American Samoa

A long overdue photo journal from my time on the EV Nautilus a few months ago.

The Nautilus is a 64-meter exploration vessel that pushes the boundaries to explore the deep ocean that lead to other-worldly discoveries. It operates under the Ocean Exploration Trust in partnership with NOAA and the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries.

I am incredibly stoked to say that I was able to join the 2019 expedition through my work at National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa. There were only 5 spots for an American Samoa science team during this research cruise, so I also feel insanely lucky that Ian and I both got to be part of the local crew…  how cool right?! There were two of us from National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa, Ian was there on behalf of National Park Service, one person from Department of Marine & Wildlife Resources / Coral Reef Advisory Group, a marine science student from American Samoa Community College, and a University of Hawaii photogrammetry student.

I was on the first leg of the cruise which was an entire week from July 22 to July 29, 2019.

This is just Part 1: Scroll down to see photos from my first couple of days on the ship.

Disclaimer: all views, opinions, and grammatical errors my own.

My first night on the Nautilus was a Sunday night. We checked in at the Pago Pago Port earlier in the afternoon, and I hosted a FB Live stream on the ONMS Facebook Page, and we got to meet everyone and settled in to our bunks, because we’d be leaving super early the following morning.

This was my room on the ship. I walked in and was like, this is sooooo nice I think I’m in the wrong room. But nope, I was in the right room! And turns out, it’s actually the Robert Ballard’s stateroom!!! I got to sleep in his stateroom! He would be joining the next leg of the cruise, so it worked out that since I was only on the first leg, we’d swap out during the switch.

I didn’t have it all to myself though! It has a bunkbed with a full size bed on the bottom where I slept, and a twin size bed up top, where my bunkmate Ave slept.

View from the boat stern (and you can see the ROV Argus) at Pago Pago Harbor.

We spent all of Monday underway. Our first destination was Swains Island, which is part of the National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa. It’s very remote, and actually is geographically a part of the Tokelau island chain, but politically part of American Samoa. We were underway for a little under a full 24-hours.

Having the first day as a transit only day was actually super helpful for people like me who chronically get seasick. I took my seasick meds and was just getting used to my sea legs.

The transit was a bit rough, so I was amazed to see the waters completely becalmed on the first evening.

Arrived at Swains island.

It’s crazy flat. It used to be a copra plantation, and there was a small village there long ago. Now it is uninhabited, though managed still by the family owners, the Jennings Family.

This is Peyton, he was the data logger for my science watch from 12am/pm to 4am/pm. He’s a gifted artist and in between all the work throughout the cruise, he made an awesome comic about his experience, and recently published a zine on it!

Our first ROV dive near Swains island. This is the ROV Hercules which has all the gadgets and gizmos that allow it to go where no man has gone before – literally – down to 4,000 meters, and takes photos, collects samples, and is tethered to the ship. It is controlled remotely by ROV pilots and feeds live video of what it sees directly to the public online at nautiluslive.org.

Deploying the ROVs takes a lot of work and manpower. It felt like such a special event each time we prepped for a dive. Everyone got to work to ensure all was prepared and troubleshooted so we could have a smooth dive. These ROVs are the prize of this ship, so it was always an event to watch it being deployed or retrieved, like a NASA mission for the deep sea.

Here’s Ian and the first dive watch team in the Nautilus control van. The control van is basically a mini NASA launch room lol. There are multiple screens that show all the different cameras broadcasted live from the two ROVs. The video engineers were excellent and got all the money shots.

Seeing this deep sea underwater landscape was so unreal. Just off Swains island, we saw a lot of pillow lava rocks.

Singing the Moana song here…

“see the line where the sky meets the sea, it calls meeeee”

The next dive watch shift – all women!


The next dive watch shift – all women!


Next up, my first dive watch, transit to Manu’a islands, and running into some weather!

See part 2 here.