Cuba Could Be Impacted by Gulf Oil Spill

Cuba’s Northwestern Coast Along the Gulf of Mexico

For the most up-to-date information on the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill’s potential impacts on Cuba, please visit our special “Cuba at Risk” page.

Since its discovery of oil and natural gas reserves in the Florida straits, Cuba’s preparations for full-scale offshore oil and gas development has raised alarm in the United States, particularly in Florida where it is estimated that much of a catastrophic spill originating in Cuba would be swept by Gulf currents. Ironically, it is now Cuba that faces the threat of a massive oil spill by the United States. The disastrous oil spill from the BP Deepwater Horizon now threatens Cuba, the largest and most biologically diverse island in the Caribbean, due to those same Gulf currents. To make matters worse, the economic embargo imposed upon Cuba by the United States decades ago makes collaboration and coordination exceedingly difficult during this crisis. [Read more...]

OMG, I Thought You Were Dead!

You’ve seen it in the faces of infants when they recognize their mother’s smiling face above. You’ve seen it on the face of an old friend across the room when she suddenly recognizes you…after all those years. And Doug Shulz, producer at Partisan Pictures, saw it clearly on my face, when he tapped me on the shoulder and pointed toward an old friend I hadn’t seen in nearly 35 years.

When we humans recognize a friend, our faces convey it with a distinctive widening of the eyes. Combine that with the surprise of seeing someone we aren’t expecting to see, our eyes grow even wider, often accompanied by a cartoon-like jaw drop. Judging from Doug’s expression while observing my face, I can only imagine how wide my eyes were. Since we were 20 feet beneath Cuba’s Gulf of Mexico waters, it must have been difficult for him to discern between an expression of surprise and delight versus a textbook example of wide-eyed diver panic. My eyes were transfixed on my old friend with a funny name whom I hadn’t laid eyes on since I was a teenager. Larger than life, vibrant, and embracing the sun, my friend was very much alive and healthy, clearly enjoying the good life in Cuba.

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Acid Oceans: The Gravest and Most Immediate Planetary Threat Yet?

Ocean acidification may present one of the gravest threats to our planet’s ecosystems and yet it is also one of the least publicized aspects of the global climate change issue. Acidification is occurring very rapidly, causing unprecedented changes to the chemistry of the oceans. It’s been estimated that roughly half of human-produced CO2 emissions over the past two centuries (since the beginning of the industrial age) have been absorbed by the oceans, leading to a drop in ocean surface pH of nearly 0.1 units (on the logarithmic pH scale).

Coral Reef in Timor (Photo courtesy of Nick Hobgood)

Coral Reef in Timor (Photo courtesy of Nick Hobgood)

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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...]

Exploring, Studying Cuba’s Gulf of Mexico

Proyecto Costa Noroccidental research team aboard Cuban research vessel Boca del Toro, second expedition

The Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies (HRI) at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi and the University of Havana’s Center for Marine Research (CIM) [Centro de Investigaciones Marinas] are leading a collaborative effort, Proyecto Costa Noroccidental [Project of the Northwest Coast], a comprehensive multi-year research and conservation program for Cuba’s Gulf of Mexico coast. Dr. David E. Guggenheim, president of 1planet1ocean, is a member of HRI’s Advisory Council and also serves as HRI’s Cuba Programs Manager and is co-principal investigator of the project with Dr. Gaspar González Sansón of CIM. [Read more...]

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...]

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...]

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