The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation provided a three-year, $3 million grant that is allowing Oceana to expand conservation work across the Pacific Ocean and approach conservation from a hemisphere-wide scale. This article uncovers some of the beatiful, biodiverse locations that Oceana is focusing on because of this grant. This feature originally appeared in the summer issue of Oceana magazine.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.