Exploring Ancient Coral Gardens
Davidson Expedition: January 26 - February 4, 2006

  LOCATION: 120 km southwest of Monterey, California

Davidson Seamount perspective view from the southeast.

Located 120 kilometers to the southwest of Monterey, Davidson Seamount is 42 kilometers long and rises 2,400 meters from the ocean floor, yet is still 1,256 meters below the sea surface. This large geographic feature, discovered in early seafloor mapping efforts, was the first to be characterized as a "seamount" and was named after scientist George Davidson of the Coast and Geodetic Survey (forerunner to National Ocean Service of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration). MBARI created high-resolution maps of Davidson Seamount in 1998 during its mapping project. Seamounts—remnants of former volcanoes—are interesting not only for their geology but also for their biology. The water above seamounts are productive feeding grounds for a wide variety of fishes, marine mammals, and seabirds. The rocky surfaces of seamounts serve as habitat islands for deep-sea animals. MBARI scientists, together with collaborators from the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, captured the first video images of Davidson Seamount during an expedition in May 2000 as part of an ongoing research project on seamounts. They were surprised to find large, dense patches of unusual sponges and extremely old coral forests with individuals commonly reaching more than three meters high (photos and video clips below).  

In January 2006, scientists from MBARI, the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, and a film crew from the British Broadcasting Corporation will return toDavidson Seamount in a partnership to further characterize this unique habitat. You can follow the expedition from the NOAA website and from this website. As a special feature on the MBARI website, students from some local schools have undertaken an art project to address some of the interesting facts about the deep sea and Davidson Seamount. You can view these images here. While most of these images are from the 5th and 7th grade students at a small school (School of the Madeleine) in Berkeley, California, here is a contribution from a second grader (Marissa) from San Carlos school here in Monterey. We are also taking some pressure experiments down for a class down in Los Angeles. We'll post some photos on the logbook page.

On the northern slope of 1270 m cone, we found extremely old coral forests (video clip) with individuals commonly reaching more than three meters high. Here is a short movie that shows some of the biodiversity we saw and an interesting geological feature— bedding.