Exploration of Pribilof Canyon Now Under Way, Revealing Rich Ecosystem, Corals

Deepwater corals, like this sea whip (Halipteris willemoesi) photographed on Sunday by Timo Marshall, thrive in the deep waters of Pribilof Canyon

Deepwater corals, like this sea whip (Halipteris willemoesi) photographed on Sunday by Timo Marshall, thrive in the deep waters of Pribilof Canyon

Thanks to great weather, state-of-the-art equipment and a top-notch crew, it has been a productive weekend for the team aboard Esperanza which arrived on site at Pribilof Canyon Saturday morning (July 28) when David Guggenheim and Michelle Ridgway made the first tandem dive in two DeepWorker submarines into Pribilof canyon to a depth of just over 1,000 feet and began to document a fascinating diversity of life, including a variety of corals, anenomes, sponges and fish. On Sunday, the ship visited a second site in Pribilof Canyon where John Hocevar and Timo Marshall completed a successful tandem dive, documenting more corals and successfully collecting a number of specimens with DeepWorker’s manipulator arm for analysis by scientists around the world.

John Hocevar (Greenpeace Senior Oceans Specialist) pilots DeepWorker at 1,100 feet in Pribilof Canyon (Video still by Timo Marshall - 29 July 2007)

John Hocevar (Greenpeace Senior Oceans Specialist) pilots DeepWorker at 1,100 feet in Pribilof Canyon
(Video still by Timo Marshall – 29 July 2007)

Already, the Greenpeace-led team has accumulated nearly 16 hours of bottom time (8 hours per sub), more than all of the previous research done in this region combined. The subs’ high-definition video cameras have already collected over 120 Gb of data. The subs are performing linear transects which will then be analyzed on the video. Twin lasers spaced 20 cm apart allow accurate analysis of the size of organisms encountered. [Read more…]

I Go First

Preparing for Dive #1

Preparing for Dive #1 (Photo: Todd Warshaw)

When I used to teach marine science at Seacamp, a wonderful marine science camp in the Florida Keys, I always tried to impress upon my students (especially the ones reluctant to get into the water) that I always saw something new every time I went diving or snorkeling. This axiom has held true my entire life, but with a submarine and the deep waters it reaches, it seems that I see something new every 5 minutes. [Read more…]

Whales Everywhere!

Humpback Whale Sounding on the Way to Pribolof Canyon

Humpback Whale Sounding on the Way to Pribolof Canyon

We departed Dutch Harbor at 4pm Alaska Time today. It’s after 11pm now, still plenty of daylight, as we head north to Pribolof Canyon for our first dive in the morning. I’ll be one of the pilots, so I hope to get some sleep soon. As we headed north away from the Aleutians, there was a steady stream of announcements from the bridge over the intercom: “Whales, port side. Whales, starboard side. Whales, off the bow.” Humpback whales in groups of ten. We also saw fin whales. [Read more…]

Esperanza Sets Sail from Dutch Harbor: Bering Sea Expedition Under Way

DeepWorker submarines aboard Esperanza as the ship heads north into the Bering Sea, leaving the Aleutians behind. (Photo by David E. Guggenheim)

DeepWorker submarines aboard Esperanza as the ship heads north into the Bering Sea, leaving the Aleutians behind. (Photo by David E. Guggenheim)

The Expedition to the Bering Sea officially got under way as the M/V Esperanza departed Dutch Harbor, Alaska on Friday, July 27 at 4pm Alaska Daylight Time. The Esperanza will steam through the night — for roughly 15 hours — to its first destination, Pribolof Canyon near the Pribolof Islands in the Bering Sea. The first DeepWorker dives are scheduled for Saturday morning.

In June, an international team of researchers and conservation specialists recently completed a week of intensive training and preparations for this Greenpeace-led expedition to Alaska’s Bering sea. The Esperanza is carrying two manned submersibles, a remotely-operated vehicle (ROV) and the research team to the Bering Sea for a three week survey of Zhemchug and Pribilof Canyons, specifically to map and document deepwater corals living at depths of more than 1,000 feet. [Read more…]

The Journey West, North, West, North…

Esperanza at Dutch Harbor

Esperanza at Dutch Harbor

At 5:15 am, the rear suspension of the taxi to Washington, DC’s National Airport groaned alarmingly under the weight of my five heavy pieces of luggage: A duffel of dive gear, a pelican case with an underwater video housing, a duffel of warm clothing, a backpack of video and camera gear, and a roll-aboard full of hard disks, cables and other geeky accessories. Alaska Airlines Flight #1 took me west across the country to Seattle, then north to Anchorage. As we pierced the clouds on our descent, the youngster seated behind me shrieked to his parents, “It looks like a big park!” Alaska was as I had remembered it: Big, wild, and beyond beautiful. [Read more…]

When Everything Goes Wrong — and It’s a Good Thing

Divers at Millbrook Quarry (Haymarket, Virginia)

Divers at Millbrook Quarry (Haymarket, Virginia)

As a young teenager, I finally got my wish: Scuba lessons for my 15th birthday! My lessons were in a moldy YMCA pool in suburban Philadelphia, and my first open water dive — my checkout dive — was in a quarry in Reading, Pennsylvania in the balmy month of December. Air temperature 36 degrees F, water temperature 40 degrees. My wetsuit was too big, was full of holes, and to this day I don’t think I’ve ever been so cold. In those primitive days of the early 70s, we didn’t use buoyancy compensators (BCs), vests that you can fill with air from your tank to keep you afloat at the surface or keep you neutrally buoyant at depth. Rather, we used “horse collar” safety vests — virtually identical to what the flight attendant demonstrates the use of for the “unlikely event of a water landing.” [Read more…]

Ginormous Is a Word, and Just in Time

Alaska: The Ginormous State Last week, Mirriam-Webster’ announced that it was adding the word, “ginormous” to its 2007 update of Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition. This is great news and comes as a great relief, just in time for next week’s kickoff of the Bering Sea Expedition. For ever since I first visited Alaska, I have found an utter deficit of adjectives to adequately convey the state’s enormity — er, ginormity. [Read more…]

The Sub Pilot Diet

The Sub Pilot Diet Stresses Pleasure

The Sub Pilot Diet Stresses Pleasure

In the 100-degree heat here in Washington, DC, the daily weather reports from Dutch Harbor, Alaska showing highs of 50 degrees seem surreal, yet in just over two weeks, that’s where I’ll be as we kick off the Bering Sea Expedition aboard Greenpeace’s magnificent ship, M/V Esperanza. In recent years, virtually all of my time aboard ships on research expeditions has been in the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean, so my wardrobe consisted of little more than a couple pairs of shorts and some thoughtfully-selected marine-themed T-shirts. But Alaska is different, and the Bering Sea is different still. The cool temperatures, wind, and damp chill of the fog combine to mean only one thing: Shopping. [Read more…]