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Ross Selected for Deep Sea Exploration Voyage

Photo by Catherine Pactol

“All my life, I grew up in and around the ocean, but not really in the deep ocean,” said Molokai’s Gandharva Mahina Hou Ross.
This summer, the Hawaiian language immersion teacher at Molokai High School’s O Hina I Ka Malama program will get the chance to explore the depths of the ocean floor, and share that knowledge with the world.
Ross was selected as one of 13 science communications fellows aboard the exploration vessel (E/V) Nautilus, operated by nonprofit Ocean Exploration Trust. He was the only Hawaii resident chosen out this year of applicants from around the world.
“He mea koʻi koʻi no mākou ke kau ana i luna o ka moku E/V Nautilus e ʻimi ʻike e pili ana i ka papakū o ka moana i hiki ke kaʻana like me nā poʻe o Hawaiʻi a me nā poʻe a puni ka honua,” said Ross. “It is very important to be able to be on board the E/V Nautilus to investigate the ocean floor and share this information with the people of Hawaii as well as worldwide.”
For about a month in July and August, he will join a crew of about 50 scientists, technical experts, engineers, educators, students and other team members exploring one of the most biodiverse areas of the ocean.
The voyage will take them to the Jarvis Island area, about 1,000 miles south of Hawaii.
“We’ll be going into the deep sea to look at ancient volcanoes, underwater ridges, and this will be the first time human eyes have ever seen them,” said Megan Cook, director of education and outreach at the Ocean Exploration Trust.
Along with being an educator, Ross is also a Hokule’a crewmember.
“One thing I remember when we were on Hokule’a, our captain was Bruce Blankenfeld. And one of his themes was ‘imi ‘ike, to always seek knowledge and learn new things about areas you haven’t been to,” said Ross. “So this is an awesome opportunity to ‘imi ‘ike, and to ‘imi na’auao, and to find out new things and be able to share those experiences with the youth, people all around the world, but especially here on Moloka’i.”
Ross teaches his students place-based education, with science steeped in Hawaiian culture. This year, they went on field trips around the island studying plant and animal life, wrapping up at One Ali’i and Kaluakoi two weeks ago.
“He’s really involved in Hawaiian culture and the lifestyle to keep it alive,” said tenth grade O Hina I Ka Malama student Kaulike Paa. “So he’s been teaching us all the knowledge he knows, so we can pass it on to future generations, such as like planting, fishing, sailing and navigating.”
Cook said they’re “thrilled for Mahina Hou to represent Molokai and Hawaii” aboard the Nautilus.
“What really stood out is his dedication to culture and community and how that really rings through in his teaching,” she said. “And we’re so excited to have him bring the deep sea back to his learners and community and to bring all of his knowledge and experience out onto the ship.”
During the voyage, Ross will be sharing the scientific discoveries of the deep sea with viewers of the Nautilus’ live stream, translating the information into educational opportunities. He hopes to increase access to Hawaiian language speakers. He’ll also be imparting the exploration experience to his students when he returns, along with others on Molokai.
“So little is known about the ocean floor as it is now,” said Ross. “A lot of the places we’re going are places that haven’t been studied much. So there is lots of new information out there and it’s exciting to be a part of it.”
They’ll be getting the first glimpses of this area of the ocean floor through the eyes of remotely operated vehicles, while the crew stays aboard the 225-foot vessel.
“We use a team of big, car-sized robots that can go down 13,000 feet or more in the ocean, and they bring with them cameras and lights, and all kinds of sensors and tools to understand the seafloor,” explained Cook. “And they share all that data up their cable, or think about a long tether, like robots on a leash — dogs on the leash — back up to us who are safely up on the ship.”
Ross’ voyage is one of nine Nautilus expeditions this year in Hawaii, American Samoa, U.S. Pacific Remote Islands, Palau, and Canada that will contribute to a better understanding of the ocean and gathering data that will inform future conservation and management.
“This particular one will visit the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument and a beautiful place just south of the equator called Jarvis Island that is rich with a lot of history, and known to be one of the most biodiverse places in the ocean,” said Cook “…We’ll have the chance to document not only the ancient history, how this part of the Pacific was formed, but what kinds of incredible animals live there, and everyone will be able to watch it live on Nautiluslive.org interacting with Mahina Hou and the rest of the team, as well as social media and all kinds of ways that we can connect to classrooms and community and really share this place live with the world.”
Kaulike and her classmates look forward to hearing about his voyage when he returns to the classroom.
“We know that he teaches us what he knows,” she said. “So it’ll be really cool for him to have that opportunity to learn and to just experience it. And then he comes back and tells us about it. And then we can learn and try and experience for ourselves.”
Ross hopes he can inspire others in his community to explore – whether it be the depths of the ocean, or their own limits.
“It’s not all the time we get these kinds of opportunities to have Molokai people go do something… usually we hear about these kinds of things on the news, but it’s not us, it’s somebody [else], so it’s cool to represent Molokai,” Ross said.
He shares a powerful message for his students.
“One thing we teach them is they will never stop learning. No matter how old you get, there’s always something new to learn,” Ross said. “So always be open minded and try and learn new things… Sometimes it’s easy on Molokai, with such a close, tight-knit community, to forget about the rest of the world, because it’s such a beautiful place here. But I think [this experience] is a good opportunity for them to see that there’s a really big world out there.”
Ross will start his journey on the Nautilus around July 11, leaving from Honolulu and ending in American Samoa. The public can follow along on Nautiluslive.org.


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