Oceana on the Water
Western Mediterranean Expedition (2010): Overview
In 2010 Ranger sailed to the Western Mediterranean to conduct research on marine areas of ecological interest that need protection.
Using an underwater robot, the crew filmed creatures and habitats up to 3,000 feet deep. In addition, for the first time, the crew conducted a marine pH survey to gather data on the impact of ocean acidification in the Mediterranean.
Read selected highlights from the expedition diaries below, or check out the full list of entries.
Why Expand the Cabrera Archipelago National Park?
The Cabrera Archipelago has been a sea-land National Park since 1991. It is one of the best preserved natural enclaves of the Spanish Mediterranean. This applies to its area with spectacular wind-shaped stubby vegetation and geology and what lies underwater. These protected areas, when they are well managed, hold a sample of how the Mediterranean would be if we treated it with the respect and care that it deserves.
We have come again, as in years past, to take samples from the seabeds that lie outside the park’s limits. On previous expeditions, we were able to document deepwater areas going down to more than 100 m, to the North as well as to the East and South of the archipelago. Today we have headed to the Eastern area of the archipelago again to film the deepwater laminarian forests and the red gorgonians that exist in the area. These species and the coralline reefs that we have filmed lie in abundance here. They are well developed and are still in very good condition. These are without a doubt spectacular seascapes worthy of immediate protection. This is why the expansion of the park’s limits to at least the East would ensure the preservation of these important marine habitats and would add value, efficiency and relevance to this National Park.
A Field of Spectacular Bamboo Coral
Two ROV submersions and a dredger in Ses Olives in the South are the result of a fairly complete day. This mount, some 20 nm to the east of Ibiza is the one we were looking at before the ROV broke down, and we have returned here to continue documenting its deepest slopes and beds. We had the opportunity to film three hours of seabed in the morning and about four hours in the afternoon with a dredger to collect a sample of the type of seabeds between submersions.
The two submersions have been very, very interesting, but we have to stress the luck we had in the second one in stumbling upon a field of bamboo coral or Isidella elongata, one of the most important deepwater species, considered as a sensitive habitat whose protection is being internationally claimed. This species of gorgonian has practically disappeared entirely from the Mediterranean as it grows in typical muddy trawling areas. This is why it is practically impossible to find specimens anymore like the ones we found today after almost half a mile of searching. It seems that the location of a submarine cable, that prevents trawling in this area, has saved this field and the biodiversity it maintains, from disappearing from trawling.
New Species Found!
The Oceana Explorer was added to our operation on the third day of our work on the Gulf of Cádiz. Last night, we began coordination with the launch team for the following day because we will work with the divers from the Explorer and with the ROV from the Ranger.
At 8 a.m., the aroma of coffee was already luring us from our beds. A few minutes later, the divers arrived with all of the photography gear that they will need. Without wasting any time, we set sail for our first sampling point with the ROV. Outside the proposal to expand the Doñana marine area, the seabeds are muddy with a scant abundance of fish. We barely observed sessile species, and the seascape is somewhat monotonous as a general rule. Nevertheless, the good part is that we have not seen any mark from trawlers or remains of fishing gear or garbage.
When we moved between 3 or 4 miles offshore, the seascape changed with the presence of rocks. Major forests of tree coral (Dendrophyllia ramea) appear, and amid the rocks, fish like African striped grunts (Parapristipoma octolineatum) and a sargo (Pagrus sp.) here and there crossed our path from time to time. A fish, the swallowtail sea perch (Chromis sp.), attracted our attention because it doesn’t seem like the typical species in this area. Therefore, we tried to capture images to confirm it. But in addition to that, a finding opened up our eyes and excited us: we discovered an area with plenty of golden cup coral (Astroides calycularis). This species, besides being precious, had not before been described in the Gulf of Cádiz because it is typically found in the Mediterranean and the Strait of Gibraltar, and it is cataloged as vulnerable on the Andalusian and Spanish Red Lists.