Bering Sea Expedition Continues on Dry Land

The brilliant pink coral, Swiftia pacifica, found at 1,300 feet in Pribilof Canyon, Bering Sea, Alaska (Photo by David E. Guggenheim)

The brilliant pink coral, Swiftia pacifica, found at 1,300 feet in Pribilof Canyon, Bering Sea, Alaska (Photo by David E. Guggenheim)

BERING SEA, Alaska — This past summer, the Greenpeace ship M/V 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. 1planet1ocean president David E. Guggenheim participated as a sub pilot and scientific consultant. 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. More than a terabyte of video data and numerous biological specimens are now being analyzed and results are being shared with a range of decisionmakers and decisionmaking bodies, including the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council.

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...]

Where Condos Fall from the Sky

The sublimely pink deepwater coral, Swiftia pacifica

The sublimely pink deepwater coral, Swiftia pacifica

They look strange, out of place — and they are. Because they’re not from around here. The odd-shaped stones and boulders that pepper the flat, dark, silty bottom here at nearly 1,800 feet look like meteorites, each surrounded by a wide, shallow crater. They’re not from outer space, but many have traveled a vast distance on Earth — hundreds, perhaps thousands of miles, over millennia. And now my sub is face to face with one of three I’d encounter on our first dive in Zhemchug Canyon yesterday (Saturday) afternoon.

[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...]

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...]

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...]

Beneath a British Columbian Waterfall?

Greenpeace Vessel M/V Esperanza

Greenpeace Vessel M/V Esperanza

Greetings from aboard the Greenpeace ship, M/V “Esperanza”! We’re anchored beneath a beautiful waterfall in one of British Columbia’s magnificent “fjords” to prepare for this summer’s intensive expedition to the Bering Sea.

Greenpeace’s largest ship, the Esperanza, will be visiting the Bering Sea in Alaska for most of the summer.The expedition will be using manned submersibles and an ROV to survey Zhemchug and Pribilof Canyons, specifically to map and document deepwater corals living at depths of more than 1,000 feet. These corals, some hundreds of years old, are vital components of a healthy marine ecosystem. Unfortunately, these corals are at great risk, ending up in trawling nets as “bycatch.” [Read more...]

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