MIAMI (AFP) - US ocean explorer Robert Ballard, famed for his 1985 discovery of the Titanic, embarked on Wednesday on an expedition in the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico.
At the helm of the Nautilus, Mr Ballard and his team will, among other things, research marine ecosystems and tectonic activity over the course of four months.
"We've started our 2014 Expedition! We are transiting to our first dive site and plan to launch our first dive off Bimini," the team said on its website after heading out to sea from Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Enthusiasts can follow the 64m vessel, decked out with state of the art technology, via www.nautiluslive.org as it makes its way through the Gulf of Mexico to Trinidad and Tobago on the eastern edge of the Caribbean.
Led by Mr Ballard, the researchers are seeking to discover new underwater ecosystems, as well as probe the movement of the seabed and tectonic plates, which could provide new clues on earthquakes and tsunamis.
High-tech equipment on board the Nautilus includes so-called remotely operated vehicles to collect samples and video, as well as a "hull-mounted multibeam sonar system", according to its website.
Mr Ballard is known for a variety of expeditions, including the discoveries of the wrecks of the Titanic, the USS Yorktown and the German battleship Bismarck.