Blog | Oceana USA

August 19, 2004: After a rockin' and rollin' night on the ship, the morning news is a surprise to nobody. Today's dive is cancelled. Winds are over 30 knots and the seas are rife with 10-plus foot waves, beyond the safety margins to safely launch and recover the ALVIN. Sadly, the "Caldera of Doom" on Ely Seamount will remain unexplored.

This was the last scheduled dive of the cruise, so after some final multi-beam mapping of the area, we'll begin the long 4 day transit south.

The underwater exploration part of the cruise has effectively come to an end. But the information collected will yield many more discoveries. I'm very appreciative of being involved in this exciting research. Being able to observe deep-sea corals in their natural habitat has been a wonderful opportunity, so much more meaningful than numbers on a spreadsheet or dots on a map.

I'd like to thank Catalina Martinez, NOAA Office of Exploration, chief scientist Tom Shirley and principle investigators Randy Keller, Amy Baco-Taylor and Peter Etnoyer, the crew of Alvin and the Atlantis, and everyone else involved in the 2004 Gulf of Alaska Seamount Exploration. All your efforts have brought mankind closer to understanding the mysteries of the sea.

For the oceans,

Jon Warrenchuk
Marine Biologist

August 18, 2004: The previous evening's multi-beam mapping revealed an interesting structure on the adjacent Ely Seamount: a volcanic crater on the summit. The P.I.'s decide to dedicate the last dive of the cruise tomorrow to exploring this structure.

There's bound to be something of interest for both the geologists and the biologists on this unique seamount feature. The crater is sensationally dubbed "the Caldera of Doom". Why? Probably because we watched Indiana Jones on DVD the night before.

August 17, 2004:The Atlantis is holding its position 800 meters over the summit of Giacomini Seamount, the last seamount we'll be exploring on this expedition.

Tom Shirley and Peter Etnoyer are cruising the flank of the seamount in Alvin while collecting samples for their research. Towards the end of every dive, the scientists in the sub call in the science report to the bridge. That way, those of us on the ship can get ready to process the collected samples when they return to the surface. The science report is reported around the ship: 7 corals, 3 seastars, 5 rocks, 4 "slurp" samples, 1 fish.

Fish? Hmmm. We haven't had a fish yet in our samples. I'm curious as to what it could be. A roughscale grenadier? A bignose skate? Shortspine thornyhead?

When the sub is retrieved and the samples are on deck, we find out. It's a snailfish! Whoa, stand back, those babies can take your leg off! Just kidding. It's only about 3.5 inches long, a real cutie.

The snailfishes are a diverse group of fish in the North Pacific (there's probably several dozen species). Snailfish have a pelvic fin that's modified into an adhesive disk used to stick onto things. This particular little dude was hanging out on a bamboo coral. All very interesting. Now into the alcohol jar with you!

The New York Times had a huge story about mercury yesterday. I can hardly do better than the title -- "E.P.A. Says Mercury Taints Fish Across U.S.":

WASHINGTON, Aug. 24 - The head of the Environmental Protection Agency said on Tuesday that fish in virtually all of the nation's lakes and rivers were contaminated with mercury, a highly toxic metal that poses health risks for pregnant women and young children.

This warning was limited to fish caught recreationally in fresh water, but you can't escape mercury by exchanging fish from your neighborhood lake for fish from your neighborhood grocery store; the highly toxic metal taints fish caught around the globe, not just in the U.S.

In fact, total EPA fish contamination advisories are up 10% from 2002. Nevertheless, the Agency continues to weaken regulations for major mercury sources. This latest warning should motivate the public to demand real reductions in mercury emissions -- now.

August 16, 2004: The video we collected on our dive to Pratt seamount allows for an unlimited number of opportunities to revisit the seafloor. Each dive has generated a treasure trove of digital video data. A hard-working team of undergraduate and graduate students, NOAA scientists, and research assistants has diligently reviewed each minute of footage collected during the entire cruise and annotated the highlights. "Dive 4036, time 16:11:43, closeup of bubblegum coral with polyps extended". "Dive 4029, time 13:45:07, seastar apparently feeding on bamboo coral". "Dive 4031, time 14:20:27, spider crabs and squat lobsters swarming on carcass (fish?)". There are hundreds of entries like this. You can check out some of the best on the NOAA Ocean Explorer Web site.