The Worst Thing I Ever Saw Underwater (and Why it Matters This Week)

An enormous scar on the bottom of the Bering Sea's Pribolof Canyon at 1,000 feet left by a trawl net leaves a path of destruction miles long, having ripped corals, sponges and everything else in its path from the bottom. (Photo: David E. Guggenheim)

An enormous scar on the bottom of the Bering Sea’s Pribolof Canyon at 1,000 feet left by a trawl net leaves a path of destruction miles long, having ripped corals, sponges and everything else in its path from the bottom. (Photo: D. Guggenheim)

On Friday, August 3rd, 2007, I landed the Deepworker submersible at 1,052 feet in the second largest underwater canyon in the world, Pribilof Canyon in Alaska’s Bering Sea. In the distance, I saw the lights of the other submersible, piloted by Michelle Ridgway.

As we both sat on the bottom conducting life support checks and communicating with the Greenpeace ship, Esperanza above, I peered through the dome and saw something strange. I reported that I had landed on what appeared to be some sort of geologic stratification — unusual layers and grooves of sediment in parallel lines across my path. What in the world was this? We hadn’t seen anything like it. Read more

Where Sea Turtles and Fishing Boats Meet

Baula en el Caribe

A leatherback sea turtle hatchling makes its way to the sea (Image by Jual via Flickr)

A study published in the April 2012 issue of Ecological Applications uses satellite telemetry data to identify danger zones where sea turtles and fishing trawlers intersect at sea — with deadly consequences. The insights provided by the study will assist regulatory agencies determine limits to fishing, such as seasonal closures, to protect sea turtles, all seven species of which are considered endangered.

The researchers followed 135 females, some from the eastern Pacific and some from the western Pacific, over 15 years as they crisscrossed the ocean hunting for jellyfish. The study found that the migration patterns for the two Pacific populations were different. Western Pacific leatherbacks leave Indonesian nesting sites to feed in the South China Sea, Indonesian seas and southeastern Australia and along the U.S. West Coast, making them vulnerable to fishing nets in many different areas.

The eastern Pacific leatherbacks traveled from nesting sites in Mexico and Costa Rica to the southeastern Pacific, with many getting snagged in fishing gear along the coast of South America. Because the eastern population is more concentrated in range, its risk of extinction is greater, Bailey says.

The new findings could help decision makers plan short-term fishery closures. Bailey credits a recent decision to close a swordfish and thresher shark fishery in California from mid-August to mid-November each year with dramatically reducing leatherback bycatches. (In 2010 no turtles were caught.)

…Read the full story at A satellite study pinpoints danger zone where leatherbacks and fishing trawlers meet. (Scientific American)

Deep Reflection: Alone in the Dark at 1,300 Feet Below

DeepWorker 6 filming Giant grenadier  (Albatrossia pectoralis)

I am inside a tiny, 1-person submarine beneath the Bering Sea, hundreds of miles offshore from the Alaskan coast. There are 1,300 feet of water between me and the surface. I’m here as part of a Greenpeace-led expedition to shed new light on the unexplored depths here.

It’s freezing cold, completely dark, and forbidding and it’s utterly beautiful. Read more

Beneath the Deadliest Catch: Beauty & Mayhem Under the Bering Sea

The Ocean Doctor on WebTalkRadio.netSeptember 6, 2010: We return to Alaska’s Bering Sea aboard the Greenpeace ship “Esperanza” and take the DeepWorker 1-person submarine down to nearly 2,000 feet where we’ll find the best and worst things The Ocean Doctor has ever seen underwater. We also visit with Greenpeace Oceans Campaign Leader, John Hocevar aboard the Esperanza.

The Ocean Doctor airs weekly on Want to listen on your iPod, iPhone or mp3 player? Download the mp3 file or subscribe on iTunes and don’t miss a single episode. See the complete list of episodes.

Submit a question and I’ll try to answer it on the air. Even better, record your question or comment on our special message line and I might play it on the air. Call: (805) 619-9194. You can also leave questions and comments for this episode below.

Like the show? Learn how to become a sponsor. Read more