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Deep-Sea Mission Off Hawaii Reveals Mysterious, Alien-Like Creatures

"What we know about the ocean is less than the surface of the moon," said one scientist involved in the expedition off Hawaii's Big Island.

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Federal researchers just returned from a deep-sea expedition near Hawaii’s Big Island to identify why the waters surrounding the archipelago are so abundant in biodiversity, while nearby areas are like sea deserts.

Jack Kittinger, the senior director of the Hawaii program at Conservation International, said some areas in the ocean have more marine diversity than others and they want to better understand what combination of currents, temperature, and topography contribute to this.

Jessica Chen / AP

Swallower fish that were found off the coast of Hawaii's Big Island.

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Researchers believe part of the reason that the area is so rich with life is that the seafloor dramatically rises as it reaches the surface, bringing with it unique nutrients. They hope to use their findings to pinpoint management and policy needs.

Another recent mission by Conservation International and the University of Hawaii explored further off the coast of the Big Island at a group of seamounts, which are active and dormant underwater volcanoes that are also rich in biodiversity, probably for many of the same reasons.

Caleb Jones / AP

Robotic arms on the Pisces V submersible open a bag of bait on the Cook seamount during a manned dive to the previously unexplored volcano.

"My goal today is to ... find out what's living on them, find out how they support ocean life, what their effect is from ocean currents and essentially what drives the ocean, what makes the ocean what it is," said Conservation International's Greg Stone, a marine biologist on the mission.

Caleb Jones / AP

Deep sea coral and sponges sit on the summit of the Cook seamount, seen from the Pisces V submersible during a dive to the underwater volcano.

Michelle Broder Van Dyke is a reporter and night editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Hawaii.

Contact Michelle Broder Van Dyke at michelle@buzzfeed.com.

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