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Underwater Drones Expand Ocean Exploration

Drones are being used to explore the depths. Just wait until they get to Hawaii's magnificent reefs.
August 12, 2017

Underwater Drones Expand Ocean Exploration

The Hawaiian islands represent one of the most biologically diverse locations on the planet. The marine life throughout our archipelago is spectacular, as you'll find on our Lanai and Molokini snorkel tours. But a lot of the most fascinating and mysterious creatures live at depths that are difficult to reach, or mostly inaccessible to humans. What if a new technology made these aquatic wonderlands easier to explore and therefore understand? There is one such technology, and depending on its level of success, the world could be in for a deluge of discoveries!

While you may be familiar with flying drones that are used for photography, filming, and even parcel delivery, you may not know that there are underwater drones as well, thanks to the OpenROV (remotely operated vehicles) project. These drones allow us a look at the underwater world from remote locations, and they have led to some big strides in science and conservation.

The technology was developed by National Geographic Emerging Explorer David Lang through his OpenROV project, which helps both scientists and interested citizens examine the marine life and conditions beneath the surface. Lang's goal was to accelerate marine discoveries by allowing people access to cameras on ROVs. You've probably heard it said that we know more about the moons of other planets in our solar systems than we do about the depths of our own ocean. That's still true, according to scientists, but Lang's ROVs may prove to be the best way to change all of that.

Recently, his project got enough grant money to distribute 1,000 units of its newest drone, a model known as the Trident. The units will be distributed by OpenExplorer, a companion site for the project. These free drones will go to citizen scientists, non profit organizations and classrooms. The drones that are already out being used in the world's oceans have led to some interesting efforts. National Geographic has highlighted the top five.

1. Watching for changes along California's coast

Folks are volunteering at Pelican Cove on the Palos Verdes Peninsula to photograph sea creatures in the area, and plan to use the Trident drones to track any changes in the location of these sea creatures. They'll be keeping an eye out for changes in sea level, temperature and acidity to explain the changes. Pelican Cove is part of a marine protected area, so citizens are especially interested in the health of the ecosystem there.

2. Safeguarding fish stocks in the Mexican Caribbean

A conservation group known as COBI will be using the Trident to educate fishermen on the status of fish populations. They're currently identifying spawning sites for grouper and snapper in the Caribbean to curb overfishing. They're also training local fishermen how to dive to evaluate the fisheries themselves, but the Trident will let them reach more difficult depths in their explorations. It's all part of an effort to keep fishing sustainable.

3. Saving an underwater world in British Columbia

Off the coast of British Columbia in Howe Sound, scientists have found an ancient ecosystem of glass sponges that were once thought to be extinct. National Geographic Explorer Erika Bergman is leading a team to study these reefs using drones and manned submarines. If successful, she and her team will make the Salish Sea area a UNESCO World Heritage site, preventing further damage to a magnificent ecosystem full of these rare sponges and their neighbors, which include octopus, anemones, cod, rockfish, sharks and much more.

4. Aiding "robomussels" in New England

A team from Acadia National Park is monitoring the Gulf of Maine for ocean acidification and warming. They're doing this by placing tiny temperature loggers inside live mussels to track conditions. The Trident will help them get visuals on the conditions off their coastline, which they will share with students to inspire them about ocean health, conservation and science.

5. Unlocking the secrets of the Mediterranean

The Mediterranean Sea is known to harbor countless shipwrecks from far back in the history of civilization. A Swiss nonprofit known as the Octopus Foundation is planning to chart the depths of this sea and explore whatever wrecks have withstood the elements over the years. They estimate there are about 750,000 antiquated wrecks down in those depths. It could be a high estimate... but it's more likely a low one. The organization uses storytelling to share the history of these places and historical events.

Lucky for us, and for you, plenty of Hawaii's reefs are accessible in pleasantly warm temperatures so you can go out exploring in person. Join us aboard a Molokini or Lanai Snorkel Tour and you'll see these marine wonders yourself! In the meantime, if you're interested in new marine discoveries, maybe keep an eye open for news about OpenROV's for some interesting reports. Mahalo!

Blogs for August 2017

10 Fun Facts About Dolphins

Posted on August 19, 2017

10 Fun Facts About Dolphins

Spinner dolphin sightings are common on our Lanai snorkel tours. We'll take you to areas off Lanai's gorgeous coastline that dolphin pods tend to favor. These charismatic marine mammals are known throughout the world as some of the smartest and most playful creatures on… Continue Reading

HOP to it: Where to Drink Wine on Maui

Posted on August 18, 2017

For many people, a romantic night on the lanai, with a nice bottle of wine makes for a perfect night. For others, part of the fun of vacation is going to a lively bar and laughing with friends. Here are five places on Maui that serve fantastic wines… Continue Reading

Can You See The Eclipse On Maui?

Posted on August 17, 2017

By now, you've probably heard there's a solar eclipse occurring on August 21. But you may be wondering if you can see it from Maui. We'll attempt to answer some of your basic questions...

I'll be on Maui on August 21. Will I be able to see the… Continue Reading

HOP to it: 5 Best Hot Dogs on Maui

Posted on August 16, 2017

When you travel to an island locale like Maui, the last thing you think about eating is a hot dog. But not all hot dogs are created equal. One thing that separates Maui hot dogs from hot dogs available elsewhere are the local toppings we can offer… Continue Reading

HOP to it: Five Best Places for Pie on Maui

Posted on August 15, 2017

Pie or cake? That's the age old question. Here on Maui, we're blessed with some amazing bakeries. Some do pie, some do cake and some do both. But today, we're focusing solely on pie. Not all of these places serve lemon meringue pie, but when on Maui,… Continue Reading

HOP to it: Best Shave Ice on Maui

Posted on August 14, 2017

After a fun day on a snorkel adventure to Molokini or Lanai, nothing says "refreshing" quite like Hawaiian shave ice. What makes Hawaiian shave ice so good? For some, it's the fresh syrups, for others it may be the add-ins, but for most people it's the actual ice. Here… Continue Reading

HOP to it: Where to snorkel on Maui

Posted on August 14, 2017

On Maui, we're blessed with world class beaches for numerous activities. Definitely one of the most popular things to do here is to don a mask, snorkel, and flippers and explore our clear waters. Here's a list of some of our favorite snorkel locations, listed alphabetically.
One note:… Continue Reading

Snorkeling Q & A

Posted on August 14, 2017

Snorkeling ranks high on the list of things to do when visiting Maui. But you can't just snorkel anywhere there's a beach. Well, you can, but you might not see more than the back of your hand. To help you get started, we've put together a list of… Continue Reading

Underwater Drones Expand Ocean Exploration

Posted on August 12, 2017

Underwater Drones Expand Ocean Exploration

The Hawaiian islands represent one of the most biologically diverse locations on the planet. The marine life throughout our archipelago is spectacular, as you'll find on our Lanai and Molokini snorkel tours. But a lot of the most fascinating and mysterious creatures live at… Continue Reading

The Colorful Sands of Maui Beaches

Posted on August 11, 2017

Maui is blessed with the best beaches in the world. A unique thing about our beaches is the variety of sands you can discover. Here's a quick primer on three different types of sands and where you can find them on Maui. Plus, we'll point you to… Continue Reading

HOP to it: Five Favorite Maui Baked Treats

Posted on August 10, 2017

S'mores are awesome. Who doesn't love the gooey, marshmallowy, chocolatey goodness of a freshly roasted S'more? But more times than not, making s'mores isn't practical. Here on Maui, we have locally produced treats that are excellent around a campfire, or really, anywhere.

1. Chocolate and Peanut Butter Mochi [Maui… Continue Reading

HOP to it: Five Favorite Books about Hawai'i

Posted on August 09, 2017

In celebration of Book Lover's Day, we've put together a list of our favorite books about Hawai'i and its people. Until we finished writing it, we didn't realize the common theme with all of them (minus the guidebook) is the resiliency of the human spirit. These stories… Continue Reading

10 Reasons We Love Living in Hawai'i

Posted on August 08, 2017

The #luckywelivehawaii hashtag exists for a reason. Whether you live in Hawai'i or are just visiting, here are 10 reasons happiness happens in Hawaii.

The weather-- It never really gets too hot or too cold. When it does get too hot, the trade winds come in to save… Continue Reading

HOP to it: Best Beaches for Every Occasion

Posted on August 07, 2017

On Maui, we're blessed with beaches for all occasions. Whether you like to body surf, build sand castles or play with your keiki in shallow surf, Maui has you covered. In celebration of Beach Party Day, here is a rundown of the best beaches for every type… Continue Reading

New Glowing Shark Species Discovered in Hawaii

Posted on August 05, 2017

New Glowing Shark Species Discovered in Hawaii

A new shark species from the deep waters off the northwestern Hawaiian islands has been discovered recently. Don't worry, this diminutive creature is less than a foot long, and you won't see it on our Hawaii snorkeling tours because it has been… Continue Reading

HOP To It - Five Favorite Local Beers

Posted on August 04, 2017

Hawai’i has become a hotbed for excellent craft breweries. In celebration of International Beer Day, here is our list of the top five locally brewed beers.

Coconut Hiwa Porter (Maui Brewing Company) -- We're suckers for a smooth porter. This bad boy is like silk, if silk tastes a bit chocolatey,… Continue Reading

A Brief History of Macadamia Nuts

Posted on August 03, 2017

It's August 3rd, and you know what that means? It's "Grab Some Nuts Day!" In honor of this special day, we thought we'd present a brief history of the macadamia nut in Hawai’i.

Originating in Australia, the first macadamia tree was planted, on the Big Island, in 1881, by… Continue Reading


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Our Latest Blogs

10 Fun Facts About Dolphins
  (Posted: August 19, 2017)

HOP to it: Where to Drink Wine on Maui
  (Posted: August 18, 2017)

Can You See The Eclipse On Maui?
  (Posted: August 17, 2017)

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