San Francisco’s Exploratorium today will unveil a five-year educational partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to bring cutting-edge scientific explorations to museum-goers.

NOAA’s 224-foot exploration vessel Okeanos Explorer, which cruised into San Francisco Thursday for a brief stop, represents the first phase of the partnership, ocean research.
Other projects are planned on atmosphere and climate science, Exploratorium spokeswoman Leslie Patterson said.

According to NOAA, Okeanos Explorer is the only U.S. ship assigned specifically to probe the ocean depths in the gathering of scientific knowledge, such as detecting ocean anomalies and mapping the ocean floor.

The ship features real-time, satellite communications to transmit its discoveries around the world directly ashore.

Data from those discoveries will be sent to the Exploratorium as part of the collaboration, according to Patterson.

“People will be able to see exploration, as it’s happening,” Patterson said.

One recent tantalizing find, according to Patterson, came by accident in May, as the Okeanos Explorer was conducting an instrument check off the Mendocino coast, and discovered “a very tall plume” emanating from the bottom of the ocean, at the junction of four tectonic plates.

“They have never seen anything this tall before, and scientists will be investigating the plume in order to ascertain what it’s composed of,” Patterson said.

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