Here's an odd fact about the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Okeanos Explorer, the nation's only federally funded ship assigned to explore the world's oceans: Most of the scientists who participate in its missions remain onshore.
That's because the ship is wired with video cameras and broadband Internet to enable telepresence, in which observers on land can watch live images from the ocean floor from the comfort of their own desks.
Spectacular Undersea Photos From NOAA's Okeanos Explorer
Now, NOAA is providing you with a chance to see some of the same amazing sights that the scientists view. From now until July 10, as the Okeanos Explorer probes some largely unexplored areas in and around the Mariana Trench Marine National Monument and the Northern Marianas Islands in the Pacific, you'll be able to watch a live video feed.
The ship is equipped with two robotic remotely operated vehicles (ROVs), which descend into the depths. Here's a map that tracks the ship's location in real time.
Located in the Mariana Archipelago east of the Philippines, the national monument protects about 95,000 square miles of ocean waters and floor. The Mariana Trench itself is the deepest place on the planet, farther down than the summit of Mount Everest is above sea level.
World's Deepest Fish Filmed In The Mariana Trench
One portion of the monument, an arc of undersea mud volcanoes and thermal vents, supports exotic life forms that exist in some of the harshest conditions imaginable on the planet - highly acidic and boiling-hot water.
One of its features, the Champagne vent, produces almost pure carbon dioxide, one of only two such known sites in the world.
Another of the monument's curiosities is the Daikoku submarine volcano, which has the planet's only pool of liquid molten sulfur. The other such known pool is on Io, a moon of the planet Jupiter. For more information, check out this primer from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.