Click the map at left to follow the expeditions and explore the sanctuaries.

The Sustainable Seas Expeditions was a path-breaking partnership between the National Geographic Society and the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to explore the United States' last frontier: the ocean. The five-year program goals were to investigate, conduct research in, and promote the 12 U.S. National Marine Sanctuaries, which range in size from a tiny bay in far-off American Samoa to a 5,328-square-mile (13,800-square-kilometer) expanse of ocean off the California coast.

Famed ocean scientist and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Sylvia Earle served as the project's director, and former National Marine Sanctuaries program director Francesca Cava managed day-to-day operations. Funding was provided by a five-million-dollar grant from the Richard & Rhoda Goldman Fund. The sanctuaries that were the focus of the Sustainable Seas missions encompass some of the world's most biologically diverse, geologically varied, and visually stunning marine habitats. The life-forms they sustain range from tiny luminescent organisms to possibly the largest creature ever to inhabit the Earth, the blue whale.

With the help of a revolutionary one-person submersible called DeepWorker, the expedition's scientists were able to photodocument the plants and animals that inhabit the uncharted regions of the sanctuaries and study the overall health of the marine environment. Online dispatches, live video and audio links, and chat rooms enabled ocean enthusiasts to share in the aquanauts' voyage of discovery.


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