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Blog Tags: Desventuradas

The Cutest Predator

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 Enric Sala, National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence. Click here to view all Desventuradas Expedition blog posts on National Geographic's Explorers Journal.

19 February 2013

When we think of predators, our minds often picture large animals with sharp teeth and scary faces, animals that have evolved just to kill humans. Our collective memory makes us fearful of the night, and almost everyone has been startled by unknown noises in a dark forest. This fear has been engraved in our collective unconscious like carvings in a rock. When it comes to the ocean, many people still fear sharks (despite repeated evidence that sharks are the ones who should be scared of us) or deep alien creatures that hide in the darkness to attack unexpectedly.

The top predator at the Desventuradas is not the typical reef shark, or a grouper with a huge mouth able to swallow a diver. It is not a fearsome animal that kills at night either. The largest predator here is the Juan Fernández sea lion (Arctocephalus philippi), the cutest carnivore we have found in any of our Pristine Seas Expeditions to date. They spend much of the day hanging out on rocky platforms near the water. When we approach them, it’s like someone brought free candy to a school. The sea lions raise their heads, get indeed very excited, and drag their fat bellies from rock to rock until they jump in the water.

The Juan Fernández sea lion is the cutest carnivore we have found in any of our Pristine Expeditions to date. (Photo by Enric Sala)

Underwater, the sea lions become torpedoes of enormous grace and elegance. Their eyes are large as a Japanese cartoon character’s, and their looks pierce us as they swim very fast between us divers. After playing with our bubbles and checking us out very closely, they just hang out, their backsides on the surface and their heads hanging down like bats.


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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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Diving into the Unknown

On Friday 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. Already the team is sending back fascinating footage. Below is an expedition journal entry from Enric Sala, National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence. Click here to view all Desventuradas Expedition blog posts on National Geographic's Explorers Journal.

10 February 2013

Today we did the first scientific dives reported for San Ambrosio Island. We don’t even know if anyone has ever dived here, period. The sea was calm, the water blue and clear, and we could not wait to jump in the water.

It has been almost a year since Alex Muñoz – Executive Director of Oceana Chile – and I started planning this expedition. During this time, we were not able to find a single underwater photo of the Desventuradas Islands. So I felt like I was parachuting in, at night, over unknown territory. I had no idea what I was going to find, but this only made it more exciting. Because these islands are so remote and apparently devoid of local human impacts, we expected to see lots of fish–and hopefully large fish in particular.


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Oceana and National Geographic Launch Expedition to the End of the World

The DeepSea prepares for a dive

Today we’re proud to announce that Oceana and National Geographic are embarking on a truly unprecedented expedition to one of the most remote and unexplored areas on earth, the Desventuradas Islands.

530 miles west of the desolate Atacama Desert in Chile are the islands San Felix and San Ambrosio, which together make up the Desventuradas. Apart from the occasional lobster fisherman and a small contingent from the Chilean navy the islands are uninhabited and the waters around them unexplored.

Assembling an all-star team of scientists and explorers, including researchers from the University of Hawaii, the University of California, Santa Barbara and Catolica del Norte in Chile, Oceana and National Geographic will launch into the depths of the Desventuradas using the one-of-a-kind DeepSee submarine, a three person vessel that will provide our team with 360 degree views of the underwater environment. The DeepSea can dive almost 1,500 feet, and features a separate tethered camera system that will allow us to investigate depths of over 13,000 feet.

The Desventuradas are one of the last truly wild places in the ocean and little is known about the ecosystem of this nearly pristine area. The expedition will provide the foundation of a scientific report that could help to establish a protected area. Alex Muñoz, executive director of Oceana and co-leader of the expedition, explains:

 “If we do not know this ecosystem, we cannot gauge its actual value or whether it is exposed to damage from activities such as fishing. This scientific expedition will give us insight into its ecological importance and will determine if it requires some form of protection.”

The voyage will be similar to joint expeditions between Oceana and National Geographic taken in 2010 and 2011 to Sala y Gomez and Easter Island, also off of Chile, that documented the profusion of life inhabiting Chile’s seamounts, vast underwater mountain ranges where nutrient rich water upwells to fuel a kaleidoscopic abundance of marine life.

As a result of Oceana’s work in Chile’s waters the Chilean senate recently voted to stop bottom trawling on all 118 of Chile’s seamounts and to overhaul its fisheries with one of the most progressive and scientific management systems in the world.

The expedition that launches today was made possible in part thanks to the generous support of Blancpain and Davidoff Cool Water.

Keep up with our expedition through our South American office  and through National Geographic’s Pristine Seas website. And remember to check back here for updates.


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