The deep sea plumes 18 miles off the Mendocino coast were unknown until the /*Okeanos Explorer*/ passed over them.
The former Navy ship has been adopted by NOAA to serve as a deep sea explorer.
"This opens us open to a whole. In fact something that no one else has ever done - this ship is dedicated to ocean exploration," said NOAA chief scientist Dr. Steve Hammond.
The Okeanos Explorer will scan the ocean, beaming back data and images in high definition. A crew of roughly two dozen will man this ship with only a few scientists on board at any given time.
"The scientists who are going to be in charge of the expedition, who say go here, stop there, take a sample of this, do something else, they are going to be on shore," said Dr. Hammond.
And it will all happen from a hi-tech control room on board. Remote operating vehicles, or ROV's, will scan the ocean floor and for the first time in the history of deep sea exploration, that data will be beamed simultaneously around the globe for analysis in real time.
On Friday, NOAA announced a partnership with the Exploratorium in San Francisco. The interactive scientific learning museum will now be the international hub for gathering and passing along data as it comes in.
"The goal of this joint effort is to create an informed public that understands and appreciates science and is actively engaged in environmental stewardship," said NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco, PhD.
The Exploratorium is already known for its hands on approach to science. The announcement will give it an opportunity to put their mark on the otherwise untouchable ocean floor.
"To have this kind of access to a federal agency of this kind of stature that's going to be this important - and going to be this important for decades to come and to work with their scientists is an incredible coup for us," said Dennsi Bartels from the San Francisco Exploratorium.
The Okeanos Explorer will be in Hawaii next week before beginning its first international voyage in Indonesia in 2010.
Written and produced by Ken Miguel.