Expedition to Cuba’s Gulf of Mexico: Preparations Underway

Exploring Cuba's Gulf of MexicoHAVANA, CUBA – Final preparations are now underway for an August expedition to explore and map one of the least known areas of the Gulf of Mexico — Cuba’s northwestern coastal waters, including Cuba’s spectacular Los Colorados barrier reef. A joint effort of the University of Havana’s Centro de Investigaciones Marinas (Center for Marine Research) and the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, this, the fourth expedition in a multiyear project entitled, Proyecto Costa Noroccidental (Project of the Northwest Coast). (See Exploring, Studying Cuba’s Gulf of Mexico for details on this important effort.) The fourth expedition will concentrate study on Los Colorados, an area with remarkably healthy  coral reefs, despite the alarming decline in the health of coral reefs elsewhere in the Caribbean. This research is providing the most comprehensive biological picture yet of this little-explored region, and Cuba’s healthy corals may offer important clues for protecting and restoring corals elsewhere. (See Can Cuba’s Mysteries Help Save the World’s Coral Reefs? in OceanDoctor’s Blog.) [Read more…]

Can Cuba’s Mysteries Help Save the World’s Coral Reefs?

Healthy elkhorn coral in Cuba's Gulf of Mexico (Photo by Abel Valdivia)Until that tranquil morning in late June 1974, the sum total of my SCUBA diving experience had been in a landlocked state, in a stifling, moldy indoor YMCA pool in the Philadelphia suburbs and a Pennsylvania quarry, flooded with icy soup-green water. Barely comprehending the new world of pungent humidity, mountainous afternoon cumulus clouds, and lush tangles of flowering succulents I experienced at water’s edge during my first visit to the Florida Keys, I was wholly unprepared later that morning when I found myself seated in sugar-white sand with 40 feet of warm, clear aquamarine water above my head. As impossibly multi-colored fish passed slowly within reach before my wide 15-year-old eyes, my gaze broadened as I marveled at the towering jetties of coral around us, living layer cakes of corals upon corals, brown and mustard rock-like structures, encrusted with brilliant red, violet and orange coralline fans and branches, swaying in the warm, nourishing current and, like eager spring blossoms, reaching toward the dancing sunlight scattered on the surface above. [Read more…]