“One night after visiting my dad in the hospital, I went out to shoot some long exposures along the Big Sur coastline. I did this to relax and escape from a hectic week for an hour or two. When I arrived at Bixby Creek Bridge, it looked like the waves were being lit up by headlights from cars. But there were no car lights on the water. There were a couple of others there taking pictures too, and we chatted and figured that it was some kind of bioluminescence. The effect was magical and looked like someone had blue dive lights underwater in certain areas. As the waves would roll in, areas of ocean would light up baby blue and then fade away. I took pictures for a little over an hour, until my batteries were exhausted. When posting the images I asked Mark Siddall of the AMNH in NYC about the phenomena. We figured out due to weather, sea surface, and wind conditions, that this must be a dinoflagellate phytoplankton bloom. Steve Haddock from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute said “It is almost certainly a dinoflagellate bloom. We are also seeing relative high bioluminescence with our instruments here in Monterey Bay.” when interviewed by a local news station.
There is much more behind this image than just the trip I took that night to Bixby Creek Bridge, in Big Sur. The image is a perfect example of how mesmerizing and beautiful this area is when you see it through the creative eye/lens combination. It is that beauty and uniqueness that has kept this area conserved from urban sprawl and that also has been my immersive focus for my physical therapy after a head on collision. Thirteen years ago they said I would never walk again, after surviving a head on collision with a construction crane. I found out that if I did more physical therapy I could do better than doctors predicted. After working my way out of a wheelchair, and then being told I would still never walk without a brace, I started using photography as an immersive distraction to walking on sand and uneven surfaces. This allowed my physical therapy to become “Pasion Therapy,” and that changed the game completely. The more I focus on the beauty of our coast here in Monterey County, the more physical torture/therapy I can inflict upon my body. This immersive distraction therapy has allowed me to burn my brace at Burning Man, climb to small mountain peaks and to even run and jump. I get all this from spending a few hours a week taking pictures near the coast. If I did not do this I would never have seen the glowing waves or gotten the shot if I had seen them. “
There’s exciting news coming out of the Mariana Trench’s mind-boggling depths. Deep sea explorers discovered a snailfish species living more than five miles — FIVE MILES! – deep in the Mariana Trench. It has been named the Pseudoliparis swirei, and according to this National Geographic article, “…scientists suspect they are unlikely to ever find a fish that lives much deeper.”
But it’s the deep sea, the least-explored part of our earth, so who can imagine what else marine researchers may find. As University of Washington marine biologist Mackenzie Gerringer notes,
“We think of it as a harsh environment because it’s extreme for us, but there’s a whole group of organisms that are very happy down there,” said lead researcher Mackenzie Gerringer, a marine biologist at the University of Washington. Further research in these depths may yield even more weird discoveries. “There are a lot of surprises waiting.”
You’re living in a golden age in deep sea exploration. There have been myriad deep-sea explorations underway this year, from NOAA’s Okeanos Explorer’s expeditions in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans to EV/Nautilus‘ seafloor mapping and exploration in the Pacific Ocean.
And thanks to the wonders of modern technology, you can tune in and watch much of this exploration on your computer. And even stream them onto your smart TV.
NOAA’s Okeanos is doing daily live-dives in the Musicians’ Seamount through September 30. Tune in!
And also through September 30, the E/V Nautilus, a project of the Ocean Exploration Trust, is conducting a seafloor mapping expedition in the Pacific Ocean, between the Pacific Northwest and San Pedro, California, focusing on areas within the US Exclusive Economic zone. Tune in here! Click that link to also see the calendar of future EV/Nautilus explorations.
Just one thing the E/V Nautilus crew saw in an expedition earlier this years – a mysterious purple orb:
Using modern tech including microCT scanning and RNA sequencing, the E/V Nautilus team identified this as “very likely” a new species of velutinid.
Every one of these ocean exploration forays is likely to see mysterious creatures, and indeed, new species. NOAA Okeanos’ recently saw this seastar, which starfish expert
Christopher Mah says is “likely a new species.”
And you can check out news and photos from their past expeditions – it’s a wealth of discovery:
Here’s a moment of pure ocean zen- sea lions rolling in the sand.
Mahalo to Jeffrey O’Neill for this ocean break.
It looks like a painting, but it’s a breathtaking photo of the ocean’s deepwater vibrant life.
“Several different vibrantly colored animals can be seen in this image, taken at approximately 2,240 meters (7,350 feet), including an Anthomastus mushroom coral (center), precious pink coral (right), bamboo coral (left), and feather stars (crinoids). Image courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, Mountains in the Deep: Exploring the Central Pacific Basin.” ~NOAA
You have one day left to join NOAA’s Okeanos crew while they explore the deep ocean – and because of the wonders of modern tech, you can join in from the comfort of your home or office. Here’s the livestream:go.usa.gov/x9zeQ
NOAA’s research vessel, Okeanos, has been livestreaming its dives daily, as it explores and maps the Pacific Ocean’s Central Pacific Basin. Why here? Because, NOAA says, the Central Pacific Basin encompasses some of the most remote areas on Earth and is poorly mapped.
“This expedition is part of the three-year Campaign to Address the Pacific monument Science, Technology, and Ocean NEeds (CAPSTONE), a foundational science initiative to collect deepwater baseline information to support science and management decisions in and around U.S. marine protected areas in the central and western Pacific. CAPSTONE serves as an opportunity for NOAA to highlight the uniqueness and importance of these national symbols of ocean conservation.”
This is really cool stuff, folks!
The NOAA research vessel Okeanos is exploring the deep sea in the remote Pacific Ocean this month, and they’re livestreaming it nearly every day. You, too, can explore the deep sea; just click here to livestream at your desk any day through March 29!
In this expedition, NOAA researchers are collecting “critical baseline information about unknown and poorly known deepwater areas in the Howland and Baker Unit of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument and the Phoenix Islands Protected Area.”
Check out what they’ve found on past expeditions – but a warning – this can be addictive!
In the watery nooks and crannies of the oceans, in the deepest, darkest trenches and even in the shallower water, bioluminescence lights up numerous saltwater creatures. Researchers around the world are studying the mechanisms and secrets of bioluminescence in the oceans.And in this holiday season, when the days in the northern hemisphere get short and darkness prevails, we turn to the lights of bioluminescence to add light to our days.
“On the right is the light emitted from the same animal. The emitted light is blue and comes from a mucous secretion. The animal is not actually red, but we briefly shine a red LED on it to show where it is.”
Image courtesy of Sönke Johnsen and Katie Thomas.
The news this past week was victorious. A coalition of twenty-four nations and the European Union declared one and a half million square kilometers of sea around Antarctica, known as the Ross Sea, as protected area. Of that, over one million square kilometers will be set aside as a no-take “general protection zone,” where fishing will be prohibited.
The Ross Sea may be remote for humans, but it’s critically important to the health of the world’s oceans. In 2008, researchers determined the Ross Sea to be “the most pristine piece of the ocean left on Earth.”
“The Antarctic protections had been urgently sought because of the importance of the Southern Ocean to the world’s natural resources. For example, scientists have estimated that the Southern Ocean produces about three-quarters of the nutrients that sustain life in the rest of the world’s oceans. The region is also home to most of the world’s penguins and whales.
The Ross Sea is a deep bay in the Southern Ocean that many scientists consider to be the last intact marine ecosystem on Earth – a living laboratory ideally suited for investigating life in the Antarctic and how climate change is affecting the planet.”
National Geographic notes:
“South of New Zealand and deep in the Southern (or Antarctic) Ocean, the 1.9 million square-mile Ross Sea is sometimes called the “Last Ocean” because it is largely untouched by humans. Its nutrient-rich waters are the most productive in the Antarctic, leading to huge plankton and krill blooms that support vast numbers of fish, seals, penguins, and whales.”
Conservationists around the globe hailed the designation of this area, which is now the world’s largest marine protected area.
“This landmark decision represents the first time that nations have agreed to protect a huge area of the ocean that lies beyond the jurisdiction of any individual country and shows that CCAMLR takes its role as protector of Antarctic waters seriously.” –Andrea Kavanagh, director of Antarctic and Southern Ocean work for the Pew Charitable Trusts
NOAA’s exploration vessel Okeanos Explorer recently ventured around the Wake Atoll Unit of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument. Researchers spotted and sampled deep sea life, from anemones to corals to seastars. And they came across this cherubic-seeming fish, hanging out …..
To conduct their deep-water research, researchers use telepresence technology to transmit data in real-time to a shore-based team of scientists who actively participate in the expedition.
This toad fish was found while researchers were exploring the depths of the Kwajalein Atoll, which is one of the world’s largest atolls. The lagoon inside the atoll covers over 800 square miles.
“As far as we know there’s only one species across the Pacific that looks like this. This is a sea toad or coffin fish. It’s in the same order as the anglerfishes and frog fishes…” comments a NOAA researcher on an expedition video — view it here.
And here’s a very entertaining video of this fish, narrated well by the Okeanos researchers – worth watching!
Photo and video courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, Deepwater Wonders of Wake.
And because the folks at Reshareworthy couldn’t resist either, check out their gallery of Clark Little wave pics here.
The Allonautilus scrobiculatus has been plying the world’s oceans for hundred of millions of years, literally. Its distinctive shell has appeared in fossil records dating back 500 million years. But it hadn’t been seen in so long that many feared it was extinct.
Then … on a recent expedition off Papua New Guinea, biologist Peter Ward spotted the elusive cephalopod.
“My prior field work in the Philippine Islands … from 2011 to early 2014, has already shown that local populations of Nautilus in the Philippines have been fished to extinction, and the fear was that perhaps the same happened to Allonautilus in Papua New Guinea in the thirty years since it was last seen alive,” Ward wrote for National Geographic.
“Before this, two humans had seen Allonautilus scrobiculatus,” Ward told UW Today. “My colleague Bruce Saunders from Bryn Mawr College found Allonautilus first [in 1984], and I saw them a few weeks later.”
And below, the rare Allonautilus scrobiculatus, right, swims next to a Nautilus pompilius. Photo: Peter Ward
The expedition, whose goal was surveying nautilus populations off Ndrova Island where Allonautilus was last seen, was sponsored by National Geographic and the U.S. National Science Foundation. Details of the rediscovery were announced in UW Today.
What happens when a pelican gets in the middle of a humpback whale’s lunch?
Journalist Manon Verchot recounts the tale in Audubon magazine,
“A hungry pelican was happily feasting on anchovies when the water beneath began to move. Strong baleen jaws clamped down hard—a humpback whale snatched up the seabird.
“It was evident that the pelican was not happy,” says Kate Cummings, the naturalist and co-owner of Blue Ocean Whale Watch who witnessed the event …..”
“….. Luckily, humpback whales don’t eat large creatures, so they have no incentive to swallow. Sensitive organs in the mouths of whales like humpbacks may allow the whale to differentiate between desired prey and unwelcome visitors.
Cummings has seen incidents like this before. Once, a whale trapped a Pink Footed Shearwater and a cormorant in one gulp. “I also saw a sea lion jumping out of a whale’s mouth,” she says. Each time, the trapped creatures got away when the whale realized what it had grabbed.
In this case, the pelican escaped. Cummings thinks the whale must have sensed it was there because it didn’t fully close its mouth. Before submerging, the whale opened back up and the pelican flew away, seemingly unharmed.”
A sea turtle bursts out out of a drainage pipe above a man and his dog in Buenos Aires…
Artist Martin Ron says of his creation:
“The turtle is a beautiful animal and has a lot of colours and textures. It’s really interesting to paint. It’s not an animal that is seen a lot and it seemed ideal to take it out of its normal context and put on it on the walls of Barracas.”
“Each person can feel free to interpret it how they like. Perhaps my intention was to personify the imagination or the spiritual part of the person in the form of a turtle and a hole in the wall from which his imagination flies out,” said Ron.
There are not enough adjectives in any language to adequately respond the the breathtaking photos of Alexander Semenov.
He is a living embodiment of talent + curiosity + intelligence + passion, all coming together for ocean exploration and inquiry. And he is passionate about sharing it with the world.
Let’s get this crowdfunding going! Support Alex & his ocean exploration dream! Check it out, and support it in any way you can today — these are the people the oceans need, to bring enthusiasm and smarts to help discover and decipher their secrets, and to bring their wonder to everyone around the globe.
Take a minute and check out Alexander’s Flickr photo gallery – prepare to get lost in the beauty of ocean gelata.
Help him give us all a window into an amazing underwater world of creatures that are too stunning, crazy and out-of-this-world to really believe.
Alex is one of the most generous underwater photographers we know. We support him ‘full on’, as Iz would say.
Media coverage of the Aquatilis TV campaign to make this ocean exploration dream come true:
Russia Beyond the Headlines – Venturing Into the Ocean Depths (*lovely webpage)
… aaaaannnnddddd – who wouldn’t want one of these expedition T-shirts?!
As photographer J.T. Gray stood on a Hawaiian beach snapping photos of surfers on Oahu’s North Shore, a pod of humpback whales, who had been lurking nearby, unexpectedly joined in the surfing fun. In his words:
“The whales were kinda hanging out about 75-100 yards off the beach at Ehukai then swam outside the lineup at Pipeline and caught the second wave of the set. It was amazing to witness. I am blessed to have been able to capture it.”
Oriana Kalama, founder of Hawaii’s Ocean Defenders, shares these thoughts about these surfing humpbacks:
“In my 25 years of whale watching I have never heard or witnessed humpback whales surfing. We see them very very close to our shores with their calfs. We observe the adult whales teach the young many behaviors. Tail slapping, spy hopping, breaching.. but to me its the first time I heard of whales teaching the youth how to catch a wave. Perhaps they were just enjoying the natural propulsion of the currents as they form waves, perhaps they have been surfing secretly all their lives, who knows. Dolphins are known to surf, and I recently heard of gray whales surfing in the coats of California so why wouldn’t the humpback whales of Hawaii surf too? After all they are most natives of Hawaii and surfing is in the blood.”
As the autumn days become shorter and colder in the Northern Hemisphere, the ocean’s creatures prepare for winter.
In the deep waters off the Central California coast, enormous schools of anchovies are drawing hundreds of humpback whales, along with blue whales, dolphins, seals, and other predators.
Here, blue sky and wispy clouds reflect off a humpback whale’s glistening back. This whale, enjoying an anchovy feast in Monterey Bay, was one of about a dozen that photographer Kate Cummings saw on a recent trip out to sea.
Image courtesy & copyright Kate Cummings of Blue Ocean Whale Watch.
“It was his passion, he believed in saving the turtles. He could walk 20 miles along the beach watching and marking turtle nests,” said Didier Chacon, Widecast project coordinator for Latin America.
Jairo Mora Sandoval, a 26-year-old conservationist, spent much of his time working for the conservation of Costa Rica’s leatherback turtle nesting areas. He was, by all accounts, passionate, dedicated, smart and very courageous.
On the last day of May, he was murdered, brutally, senselessly, in an act that appears tied to his conservation work.
Jairo was patrolling Moín Beach that night, a leatherback turtle nesting area, for conservation group WIDECAST. After his murder, WIDECAST suspended all beach patrols. But fellow conservationist Vanessa Lizzano has pointed out that patrols must continue, somehow – “If we forget about this beach, then Jairo died for nothing,” she said.
Oceanwire joins his family and colleagues, Costa Ricans and the global conservation community in mourning this tragic and needless loss, and we urge our readers to add their voices to the chorus demanding that his murderers be found and convicted, and that conservation of Jairo’s passion – Costa Rica’s sea turtles – continue, with all necessary protections.
Here’s what you can do:
Donate here to the reward fund for the capture and conviction of the killers (scroll to bottom of page to find donation link).
Spread the word.
Na waimaka o ka lani.
A stunning close-up of a North Pacific giant octopus (Enteroctopus dofleini) in the Japan Sea. How did talented Russian photographer Alexander Semenov get so close? He says “It’s not easy to get close, but this one was a very patient and calm one. And he was curious about me, so we contacted a little and I made this shot.”
A fascinating and rather zen animation of ocean surface currents from 2005 through 2007, from NASA satellites.
As NASA notes: “Watch how bigger currents like the Gulf Stream in the Atlantic Ocean and the Kuroshio in the Pacific carry warm waters across thousands of miles at speeds greater than four miles per hour (six kilometers per hour); how coastal currents like the Agulhas in the Southern Hemisphere move equatorial waters toward Earth’s poles; and how thousands of other ocean currents are confined to particular regions and form slow-moving, circular pools called eddies.”
This animation was made using ECCO model-data synthesis (ECCO is a NASA project otherwise known as “Estimating the Circulation and Climate of the Ocean”).
“ECCO model-data syntheses are being used to quantify the ocean’s role in the global carbon cycle, to understand the recent evolution of the polar oceans, to monitor time-evolving heat, water, and chemical exchanges within and between different components of the Earth system, and for many other science applications.” – Aries Keck, NASA
They’re the oldest species of seals on the planet, believed to have been swimming Earth’s waters for millions of years. And today they’re the most endangered marine mammals in the world.
Hawai’i’s monk seals (Monachus schauinslandi) are one of two mammal species endemic to the islands (the other is the Hoary Bat). Long ago, Hawaiians named these creatures ‘Ilio-holo-i-ka-uaua – or “dog that runs in the sea.”
Mediterranean monk seals (Monachus monachus) were said in Greek mythology to be protected by Apollo and Poseidon, and were described by Aristotle and other Greek writers. A monk seal face was etched onto coins dating from the 6th century BC, found in the ancient city of Ionia, on the Aegean Sea.
The third recently known monk seal population, the Caribbean monk seal (Monachus tropicalis), has been declared extinct; the last one was sighted in 1952.
Today, the Mediterranean monk seal population is precariously below 500 individuals and believed to be declining. They’re now found predominantly in caves and areas isolated from humans – not the open beaches where scientists believe they traditionally spent their time.
Hawaiian monk seals number less than 1,200 individuals, and are also believed to be declining in alarming numbers. A 2009 scientific study stated that Hawaiian monk seals face a genetic bottleneck, with the lowest genetic diversity of any mammal species ever studied.
Both populations are critically endangered, and face multiple threats – encroaching human populations, entanglement in marine debris and fishing gear, infectious disease and more. They also have a relatively slow reproductive rate compared to other seals.
Funding for their protection in both Hawai’i and Greece is not certain, particularly in these rough economic times.
And perhaps figure out what you can do to help them make it through another million years on this planet.
Update 16 Feb. 2012: TV3 out of NZ has a good read on a male monk seal being relocated to Waikiki Aquarium because of aggressive behavior toward his brethren.
Update, 27 Jan. 2012: this AP article is a good read – illustrating how NOAA’s efforts have been helping the critically endangered monk seal population in Hawai’i.
–> NOTE: IF THERE IS A VIDEO BELOW THIS SENTENCE, IT IS AN AD AND NOT PART OF THIS POST.
Our ocean pic of the week — a planktonic jellyfish with bright green fluorescent tentacles. The red fluorescence in the middle of the jellyfish is from chlorophyll in a recent meal of algae.
This pic is from NOAA’s Operation Deep Scope 2005 Expedition – a research cruise in the Gulf of Mexico’s deep waters off Florida.
Some scientists on the expedition set out to study light in the ocean – color, fluorescence, polarization, vision and bioluminescence.
Dr. Edith Widder, a senior scientist on the trip, said her first sight of luminescence in the ocean’s depths changed her life:
“Seeing lights in the ocean – the living lights of bioluminescence observed from a submersible – is the event that set me on my uncommon career path … I was also convinced that bioluminescence had to be one of the most beautiful and important phenomena in the ocean. It seemed like it was everywhere and there was so much of it.”
Image courtesy Dr. Mikhail Matz and NOAA’s Office of Ocean Exploration & Research
“There are rubies in the sea!” and “There be dragons!” exclaimed the news.
Researchers from Scripps Institution of Oceanography announced the exciting news that they’ve spotted and filmed a live Ruby Seadragons in the wild, in waters off Australia.
“It was really quite an amazing moment,” said Scripps graduate student Josefin Stiller.
It’s the first time this surprise third species of seadragon has been seen alive in the wild.
“Last year, Scripps Oceanography marine biologists Josefin Stiller and Greg Rouse, and Nerida Wilson of the Western Australian Museum described the previously unknown Ruby Seadragon from preserved specimens misidentified as Common Seadragons—one of which was collected nearly one hundred years ago.”
In the words of the New York Times:
Since the 19th century, marine biologists had thought that only two types of these enchanting fish existed — the leafy and weedy — until they discovered a third among museum specimens in 2015: the ruby sea dragon.
Now, for the first time, scientists have observed the ruby sea dragon swimming in the wild. It is colored deep red and looks like a stretched-out sea horse with a hump like a camel and a tail it can curl. Unlike its kin, the ruby sea dragon lacks the appendages that help camouflage leafy and weedy sea dragons among the ocean floor’s kelp and sea grass.
Watch the first-ever video of a Ruby Seadragon here: http://bit.ly/2jKQLWZ
(our website technology won’t allow us to post this important video here)
The backstory of this species’ discovery is fascinating, and includes researchers building a 3D model using preserved specimens, in order to envision what they were looking for. their paper outlining the discovery.
The surprise discovery led to more surprises. The Ruby Seadragon has a prehensile tail, like seahorses. It also is lacking the appendages that other seadragons have.
The hunt for the Ruby Seadragon was complex. Because Ruby Seadragons were believed to live at depth, Scripps partnered with Total Marine Technology, which provided ROV support in the hunt for the new seadragon species. The Western Australian Museum gave researchers access to the seadragon specimens in its collection, which proved crucial in piecing together the puzzle, since the Ruby Seadragon had only been seen dead, and those specimens had been misclassified over time as known seadragon species.
“Until last year, no one had ever suspected a third species of seadragon existed,” said Rouse, lead author of the study. “This discovery was made thanks to the great benefit of museum collections.” And, we would add, the tenacity of the researchers.
Below, the other two types of sea dragons: Weedy, or Phyllopteryx taeniolatus (lower left); Leafy, or Phycodurus eques (lower right).