Expedition to San Juan Seamount

Purple Gorgonian - photo credit: MBARI

Purple Gorgonian – photo credit: MBARI

“About two million years ago, a small archipelago off the coast of modern-day California slipped beneath the waves, receding into the ocean. Its birth had been a violent one, as volcanic eruptions piled basalt upward, pyramid-like, through the deep sea and toward the light. Ultimately, the water line was breached and mountainous islands rose into the air. Waves smashed against the rocks, creating black sand beaches, and rivers coursed through what was no doubt a verdant landscape. But then the land started sinking. With an empty magma chamber and a cooling, contracting crustal base, the cliffs became beaches, and ultimately disappeared entirely.”

New Survey of 10,000-foot Seamount Reveals Coral Wonderland

by Jeffrey Marlow, July 5, 2016

Over the last several months, scientists have been exploring deepwater habitats off the shores of California. Though studied by the academic community, federal agencies, military and petroleum industries, little high-resolution mapping has been done and there is still much to discover.

Dr. Robert Ballard and the Corps of Exploration recently took a trip to San Juan Seamount (described above), where the remotely operated vehicle Hercules viewed and filmed unexplored areas of this ancient volcano for the first time ever. San Juan is one of several seamounts proposed for new protections under Congressman Farr’s H.R. 5797. Click here to support these new protections.

The crew of the E/V Nautilus will continue to explore sites in the deep waters off California over the coming months. They’re livestreaming footage from their expeditions and explorers are even taking audience questions in real time.


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