Preparing for an Expedition- Jaseur Bank

Oct 05 2010

leaving recife low

Sea Dragon is heading south, slowly out of the hot tropics and towards an important and entirely new sort of mission. Leaving the hot, humid, coastal port of Recife we could feel the influence of the giant Amazon wet forest to our west and north. Even the ooastline has an exotic, and ultimately tragic character. Recife’s beaches-looking in some ways like a heavily latin version of South Florida (is that the same?) or Wakiki, are clearly, repetitively marked – “No Swimming or Surfing”. There is a large picture of a shark silouhette on the sign posts. Here large numbers of Bull Sharks, a notoriously aggressive species, regular conflict with people. This is apparently due to the loss of productive mangrove habitat in the surrrounding region. They are hungry.

We are now just a crew of four, 3.5 really. Emily Penn, Portia, myself…and baby Atlas. The young man is out on his first expedition at just seven months. He’s got a wonderful crib rigged up at the main galley, a giant rope play room in the sail locker, new things to tug and chew all over the boat, and pretty much the run of the place. Remembering our own childhoods, we are of course, all jealous- and therefore highlly insenstive to his occaisional meltdowns :) I am sure he will have many “expeditions” ahead of him…although Portia gently reminded me last night that an Expedtion is not always the same thing as a Family Vacation! She is right of course, but then this is something new and exciting for us all.

Dale is in Rio awaiting the convergence of an exceptional people that will round out our expedition team. More on them later, but suffice it to say that we will have an extraordinary team for the next several weeks. Capable, experienced and just plain good people. Our goal now is to move Sea Dragon south to the Abrolhos Reefs, anchor and await the interstection of people and equipment to form up for our Jaseur Bank Expedition. Abrolhos is a marine protected area wisely guarded by the Brazilian people. The small set of islands sit on a large bank of shallow hard coral reefs at the southern limit of their range. Here a local catamaran will bring out the full team from the nearby Caravellas town, meet up, settle in and then head out.

Our goal for this next trip is to conduct the first ever visual reconissance of a deep seamount approximately 230nm off the Brazilian coast. The Jaseur Bank sits in international waters and rises to at least 150′ (45m) below sea surface, abrubtly, from over 14,000′ of deep, clear ocean. Seamounts present rich, locally productive islands of marine wildlife habitat. Deep water rises to visible light depths to create a hotspot of life. Large pelagic fish, marine mammals are drawn to productive, diverse bottom habitats. Plateaus, pinnacles and deep, sometimes vertical walls of life create exceptional habitat for marine life. This is what should be there. What has us worried is the fact that this bank is in international waters, and therefore outside Brazilian protection and control. Despite the good work the government is doing in Abrolhos, this area may be subject to the full force of unregulated long-lines and bottom trawling nets. We hope, ironically, to see many of the sharks that are the source of conflict in Recife. Our goal is to find the shallow water, dive, film, record and bring the story back.

This will be in some ways, our most ambitious work, with many new challenges. However, weather willing, we are confident in success. The boat, team and mission are aligned.

We are now travelling south on a heading of 223 magnetic at 8 kts- unfortunately most under power as the wind has left us. The sea surface in our 11,000′ of water is smooth with 3′ waves¬† at most. We are at 11 48.9 S / 36 11.9W.¬† Calm, not so good for sailing, but good for thinking about the diving ahead. Atlas is sleeping and things are coming together well.