Expedition to the Bering Sea Concludes Successfully with New Insights, New Questions

A bald eagle sits atop Unalaska's Russian Orthodox Church of the Holy Ascension with Esperanza at anchor in background. (Photo by David E. Guggenheim)

A bald eagle sits atop Unalaska’s Russian Orthodox Church of the Holy Ascension with Esperanza at anchor in background.
(Photo by David E. Guggenheim)

With a Terabyte (1,000 Gigabytes) of high-definition video, photographs and other data, along with numerous biological samples, now making their way around the world to scientists, policymakers and public forums, new insights and perspectives are emerging as the hard work of reviewing this vast volume of new data moves forward. The science team and sub pilots have departed Esperanza, which is continuing west along the Aleutian Island chain, continuing important outreach to local communities. The ship will eventually continue west to Japan.

Before departing Dutch Harbor, the science team/sub pilots made the first public presentation of its findings, including imagery and videos, to the community of Unalaska. The following day, members of the community were invited aboard Esperanza during an Open House to meet with the crew and see the ship up close.

Greenpeace Ocean Specialist, John Hocevar (left) and Greenpeace Oceans Campaigner, George Pletnikov (right) lead community outreach event in Unalaska, Alaska. (Photo by David E. Guggenheim)

Greenpeace Ocean Specialist, John Hocevar (left) and Greenpeace Oceans Campaigner, George Pletnikov (right) lead community outreach event in Unalaska, Alaska. (Photo by David E. Guggenheim)

Though the at-sea portion of the expedition has concluded, much work lies ahead in the analysis and review of the information collected. In addition, planning is underway for events to bring the new imagery and insights to the public, so stay tuned. Also, the team continues to review chart data regarding the pinnacles reported to be in the Zhemchug Canyon area which purportedly rise within 20 feet of the surface. Such features would certainly be biologically important, so the search will continue.

Pribilof and Zhemchug Canyons revealed diverse and complex ecosystems, rich with corals, sponges, fish and other marine life. They also revealed striking human impacts from trawlers, damage that was documented during the expedition. For a reflection on the conclusion of the expedition, read David Guggenheim’s latest OceanDoctor blog post entitled, “A Sea Turtle is Born in Alaska.”

The Esperanza carried two manned submersibles, a remotely-operated vehicle (ROV) and an international research team to the Bering Sea for a three week survey of Zhemchug and Pribilof Canyons,to map and document deepwater corals living at depths of more than 1,000 feet. The expedition was conceived of and was led by Greenpeace. [Read more...]

Esperanza Heads South to Dutch Harbor with New Insights

Location of Pinnacles Remains a Mystery

A Dall's porpoise (top) gives Michelle Ridgway in DeepWorker a sendoff before her dive to 1,700 feet at Zhemchug Canyon in this surreal looking image. Hundreds of Dall's porpoises were present around the ship during the expedition. (Video still by David E. Guggenheim)

A Dall’s porpoise (top) gives Michelle Ridgway in DeepWorker a sendoff before her dive to 1,700 feet at Zhemchug Canyon in this surreal looking image. Hundreds of Dall’s porpoises were present around the ship during the expedition. (Video still by David E. Guggenheim)

The Esperanza began its 2-day steam south and endured gale-force winds and 15-foot seas along the way, but all are well and grateful for the successes along the way. The team achieved a total of 25 sub dives during the expedition, well-exceeding expectations for this part of the world where weather is typically unforgiving.

The team collected nearly a Terabyte (1,000 Gigabytes) of high-definition video, photographs and other data, now being archived, cataloged and distributed. Also collected were numerous coral, sponge, and other invertebrate samples which are being prepared for distribution to scientists around the world for further analysis. [Read more...]

Deep Dives at Zhemchug Canyon Reveal Corals, Intricately Woven Ecosystem

Before rough seas rolled in on Tuesday, the team aboard Esperanza was able to complete six manned submersible dives and three ROV dives at Zhemchug Canyon, considered the largest canyon in the ocean. The subs worked close to their maximum depth of 2,000 feet while the ROV worked at its deepest depth ever, around 3,000 feet. Numerous coral species were present and documented throughout the dives.

Zhemchug Canyon has also revealed an intricate ecosystem whose inhabitants depend upon small holes or rises in the otherwise flat, silty bottom, including “flatfish holes,” depressions made by halibut, flounder, sole and skates, and drop-stones, rocks and boulders that fall from melting icebergs above. Read more about this unique place on David Guggenheim’s OceanDoctor blog. [Read more...]