The Beacon

The Importance of Being Here

Oceana South America Vice President Alex Munoz prepares to dive at San Ambrosio. Special thanks to Revo Sunglasses for supporting the expedition team. © OCEANA

Earlier this month Oceana and National Geographic launched an expedition to document the marine life and habitat of the waters of the remote and unexplored Desventuradas Islands more than 500 miles off the coast of Chile. Below is an expedition journal entry from Oceana South America Vice President Alex Munoz.

February 26

As the DeepSee submarine is towed towards the surface with us inside, in search of the beauty of the deep, through the 10 cm thick  acrylic sphere I see Eric pass by in another boat to pick up the drop cameras, thousands of feet underwater. A third boat took the group of Chilean and foreign scientists to the other side of San Ambrosio to follow up on biological data on the most exposed and difficult side of this island. Manu and Eduardo, the underwater photographers, are underwater for a while taking photos with great skill and patience. Each of these actions is prepared, begins and ends with a fluid choreography from the ARGO, the best diving and research platform that we could imagine.

Every day I see the extraordinary display of knowledge, talent, and technology operating simultaneously and I wonder, “How much is this expedition worth for Chile ?” I leave the question open as we begin to descend.


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Pura vida! (Pure life!)

On February 8, Oceana and National Geographic launched an expedition to explore the waters off of the remote Desventuradas Islands more than 500 miles off the coast of Chile. By documenting marine life and habitat the team hopes to persuade the Chilean government to protect more than 60,000 miles surroundinig this archipelago. Below is an expedition journal entry from Oceana South America Vice President Alex Munoz. Photos © Oceana

After more than a week of expedition, this place continues to surprise us. Yosy discovered a coordinate on the map very close to San Félix that corresponds to a seamount whose peak is only 10 meters deep. This means it is the perfect place to go to with our divers and submarine DeepSee. 

We leave early in Argo to look for the seamount. After a few hours, the echo sounder detects 10 meters! Yosy had been right! The group of scientists and cameramen quickly get into the water. 

Enric, Avi and I are the fortunate ones that will go in the DeepSee to a completely unknown place. As we start to descend, Avi, our pilot, says, “This is the exact definition of exploration!” And wow, was he right. As my colleagues and I are very excited, before we know it, we have reached 130 meters. Thousands of fish, from brecas to Jack mackerel, sharks to vidriolas surround us. 


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An Intense Start

On February 8, Oceana and National Geographic launched an expedition to explore the waters off of the remote Desventuradas Islands more than 500 miles off the coast of Chile. By documenting marine life and habitat the team hopes to persuade the Chilean government to protect more than 60,000 miles surroundinig this archipelago. Below is an expedition journal entry from Oceana South America Vice President Alex Munoz

From the moment we set sail from Antofagasta it was clear that there was no time to lose.  There were several briefs on safety measures inside the ship, the use of the submarine and diving, in addition to numerous conversations among almost 20 people, each one an expert in their fields. Everyone wants to share their knowledge and experience and at the same time, is willing to learn from others.

After two and a half days of journey we arrived in San Ambrosio Island on a Sunday. The water is deep blue, similar to Juan Fernández. The island is a mountain with steep cliffs with no visible place from where to climb to the top.

As soon as we arrive, Enric and the other divers began to prepare the first plunges. You could see both anxiety and happiness in their faces. It is the feeling of being in a place where none of us had been before. Actually very few people have been here, period. The first boat leaves for the island with the divers and an impressive stock of underwater cameras.

At the same time, Eric from NatGeo begins to fit the high definition drop cameras inside a large crystal bubble to record at thousand meter depths. One of them was successfully used in the Marianas trench, 11,000 meters below the sea surface.

Finally, a long-awaited moment comes: the Deepsee submarine is about to touch Chilean waters for the first time. Able to descend to 450 meters crewed with three people and with a 360° view, it is the perfect tool to explore the ocean depths with human eyes.


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Working Toward Marine Protection for Rapa Nui

A sea turtle swims in Hanga Roa Bay. © Ford Cochran

Oceana and National Geographic are currently on a scientific expedition to Sala y Gomez Island and Easter Island (also known as Rapa Nui).  Author Alex Muñoz is the Executive Director of Oceana Chile. This blog dispatch was originally posted at National Geographic.

Today we had an extraordinary meeting with representatives of the Rapa Nui chamber of tourism and other members of the local community. They told us of their project to create a marine preserve right off Hanga Roa Bay, which they said is a critical initiative for them. They know that Hanga Roa concentrates incredible marine life. Also, it's one of the most beautiful spots here for divers, as indeed for any island visitors, which makes it both ecologically and economically important.

The Rapa Nui community formally presented this proposal to the Chilean government a few years ago, but unfortunately it was turned down. Now they want to explore collaboration with us and see if we would be interested in supporting them in an effort to present this project again.


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Confronting Illegal Fishing in Sala y Gomez

The naval team approaches the fishing boat. © Ford Cochran and Alex Munoz Wilson

Oceana and National Geographic are currently aboard a Chilean naval ship, the Comandante Toro, on a scientific expedition in the waters of the newly created marine park around Sala y Gomez island (FYI, an alternate spelling is Salas y Gomez). Author Alex Muñoz Wilson is the Executive Director of Oceana Chile. This blog dispatch was originally posted at National Geographic.

We woke up this morning to a startling sight: Overnight, a small commercial fishing boat from Easter Island entered the protected waters of the marine park and dropped its lines within site of the Comandante Toro.

The fishing boat's captain was either brazen (why make an illegal fishing foray in plain sight of a large naval patrol ship?) or unaware of the existence of the new park (which would also be surprising, given the substantial publicity in Chile--particularly on Easter Island--surrounding the park's creation).

The Navy captain dispatched a team in one of the Toro's fast boats to interdict the fishing vessel, inspect it, and put a stop to the illegal fishing. According to the captain's report, this was a small commercial fishing boat with tuna in the boat's hold.

The fishing boat's owner said he was aware of the existence of the marine park, and that he was still planning to fish in this area. The navy showed him maps which made it clear that he was harvesting marine life inside the park in a no-take zone where all commercial fishing is banned.

This was the first enforcement action inside the new marine park.


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