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...]

Esperanza Now at Zhemchug Canyon, Largest Underwater Canyon in the World

The Esperanza crew had an opportunity for a brief shore leave on St. Paul Island on Friday (August 3) before steaming north to Zhemchug Canyon. On St. Paul, they visited a fur seal rookery. Populations of fur seals are down dramatically. (Photo by David E. Guggenheim)

The Esperanza crew had an opportunity for a brief shore leave on St. Paul Island on Friday (August 3) before steaming north to Zhemchug Canyon. On St. Paul, they visited a fur seal rookery. Populations of fur seals are down dramatically.
(Photo by David E. Guggenheim)

Continued favorable weather and few mechanical problems means that the team aboard Esperanza has been able to complete 14 manned submersible dives at Pribilof Canyon. On Saturday (August 4), Esperanza arrived at Zhemchug Canyon to explore this, the largest undersea canyon in the world, much larger than the Grand Canyon. Within the first few minutes of the deepest ROV dive yet, more than 3,000 feet down, the team discovered corals, including pink “bubblegum” corals along with other soft corals.

Earlier, during the final dives at Pribilof Canyon, the team documented numerous corals, but also evidence of extensive trawling damage in the area.

The Esperanza is carrying 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 is being led by Greenpeace.

[Read more...]

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