Beginning Friday, May 17, the secrets of one seamount
will be revealed. A team of researchers from four marine science
institutions will explore the Davidson Seamount 1,300 meters (4,000 feet)
below the ocean’s surface off California’s Big Sur coast, just outside
the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. The
public can share their daily discoveries through a website created
by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The
expedition will continue through Friday, May 24.
Based on a preliminary survey of the seamount conducted
in May 2000 by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI),
scientists expect both biological and geological surprises. They will use
a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) to take their closest look ever at the
2,300-meter (7,874-foot) high underwater mountain—the first deep-sea
feature to be formally categorized as a seamount.
The expedition will use MBARI’s research ship, the Western
Flyer, and its state-of-the-art ROV Tiburon, a robotic
submersible that can dive 4,000 meters (13,000 feet) below the ocean’s
surface. In addition to MBARI researchers, the expedition team will
include scientists from the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Monterey Bay National
Marine Sanctuary, and Moss Landing Marine Labs.
The team will travel 120 kilometers (75 miles) southwest
of Monterey to study the Davidson Seamount. Headed by chief scientist Dr.
Andrew De Vogelaere, research coordinator for the Monterey National
Marine Sanctuary, the explorers will be an interdisciplinary team
including geologists, marine biologists, educators and resource managers,
with a wide range of expertise.
They will be studying the living creatures found on and
around the seamount, taking geological samples and mapping the
40-kilometer (25-mile) long seamount.
What they discover will be available to the public on a
daily basis on NOAA’s
Ocean Explorer website. Photos, video clips, and diary entries by
the scientists will be posted there. Visitors to the website will also
have opportunities to email questions about the work for the scientists to
"Seamounts are biological hot-spots in the world’s
oceans," De Vogelaere said. "Because they’re distant from
shore and in deep water, they haven’t been heavily exploited—yet. We’re
eager to bring new scientific tools to the project, and to use the website
to reach the public as we’re making discoveries about this unique and
Explorers will be expanding on the video surveys of
bottom communities made earlier by MBARI, collecting biological samples of
seafloor organisms and conducting surveys of fish, seabird and marine
mammal populations around the seamount. If possible, they will also use
special darts to collect tissue samples from passing sperm whales for
genetic studies to understand broader population patterns among these
Some deep-water animals could be collected and become
part of the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s living deep sea exhibit,
"Mysteries of the Deep." Video from the expedition could
ultimately be featured in the aquarium’s "Exploring Monterey
Canyon" auditorium program.
"The expedition may also help shape ocean
policy," De Vogelaere said. "If seamounts are as biologically
rich as we believe, what we find could show that they’re in need of
This is a joint release from the Monterey Bay National
Marine Sanctuary, Monterey Bay Aquarium, Monterey Bay Aquarium Research
Institute, and Moss Landing Marine Labs.
For additional information about the expedition and the