Seamount Discovery Diving | South Atlantic
Depart: Recife, Brazil
Arrive: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Length: 15 days
Focus: Technical Diving on Uncharted Seamounts
Pangaea Explorations is planning an initial reconissance exploraiton of an offshore seamount in October 2010. The Jaseuer Bank sits approximately 230nm offshore southern Brazil, in Internatinoal Waters. The bank is reported to have a shallow point depth of about 10m, with confirmed depths of 50-60m on its plateau. The bank has apparently not been well explored. Our interest is in assessing the marine life community and evidence of commercial fishing.
Seamounts are underwater mountains typically rising from very deep water towards the surface. The most interesting seamounts often come relatively close to the surface, within the photic zone. Their volcanic origin was first clarified by Charles Darwin who understood their connection to coral reefs and atolls. They may be very young (growing) like the Lohii Seamount off Hawaii, or ancient like Bermuda which has very deep layers of limestone reef above the original volcanic core. The combination of rising currents striking the seamount walls, surface light and the “island” like stucture surrounded by deep water make these areas biologically rich, unique and visually impressive.
Depending on conditions, seamounts may also harbor unique marine life- sometimes even endemic species. This can be due to their long history and isolation from other shallow water areas. Nutrient rich water risines up against these steep underater faces and creates rich zones for marine life. Soft and hard coral communities are common depending on water temperatures.
The Jaseur Bank is particularly interesting (20 30’S / 36 00’W ). It lies along an 800 mile volcanic ridge running east from the coast of Brazil. This ridge terminates in two above water islands, Trindade and Vaz that are now protected by Brazil. Along the entire string, the Jaseur appears to be the highest point and most shallow water. Available nautical charts (MaxSea, UK Hydrographic Office, Defense Mapping Agency) all show a shallow point of depth reported at just over 10m. This is surrounded by a plateau several miles long and wide of depths between 50 and 80m. We also have anectodal reports from Brazillian fisherman of these shallow spots. In March 2010 our vessel , Sea Dragon, transited over this area enroute from Cape Verde to Brazil. The team spent approximately 8 hours in a box search over best available coordinates using traditional and forward looking sonar. They confirmed the large area of 50-60m deep water. If the shallow point of 10m exists, it may be mischarted (common in these early surveys), and/or a very small area pinnacle.
Because the Jaeur Bank lies outside the Brazillian 200nm EEZ, it is in interntational waters and not subject to any significant fisheries regulations. As such, we suspect it may be heavily fished with the potential for bottom habitat damage due to trawling nets and lost gear.
We have been unable to find very little concrete information on this seamount. There are isolated records of benthic scientific collections using surface towed nets. We have no indication that the area has ever been explored by divers, submersibles or ROV.
This expedition has four principal objectives:
- Verify and accurately position the shallow water point of 10m indicated on navigational charts
- Create a visual record of local marine life on the seafloor and in the water column.
- Document the existence of any fishing impacts including boat presence, lost fishing gear (e.g. net snags), and bottom damage
- Communicate our findings through popular media, short video, and a formal report. All findings, raw footage and other data will be made available to the Brazilian government and conservation groups.
Products of the Expedition
- A high quality, HD format video on the expedition that can be made available to Brazilian TV and public institutions. We would be pleased to have this supported by a corporate sponsor.
- Materials to support a public exhibition of the expedition – posters, photos, maps, video clips
- Raw photos and video made available to Brazilian conservation and media organizations
- Bottom survey and locations made available to Brazilian conservation and media organizations
- Crew made available to meet with Brazilian conservation and media organizations
- Popular magazine article on the expedition- supported by our own network of social media (http://panexplore.com/, blogs, twitter, etc)
Several science/sailing news entities have expressed interest in providing coverage including National Geographic Brazil and Thalassa TV http://www.thalassa.france3.fr/ (France). We have interest from a Brazilian dive magazine, Revista Mergulho – www.mergulho.com.br .
We are looking for private sector sponsors that can support the expedition in exchange for marketing and media benefits. These can include title sponsorship of the film, public exhibits, use of media images, crew meetings, boat logos and potentially sponsorship of local crew members on board.
The sailing expedition will run from October 1-14, 2010. Our team will assemble at the Abrolhos Reef Marine Sanctuary, just offshore from Caravelas, Brazil – just north of Rio. We plant to devote three full days on the Jaseur bank. The team will return to the mainland just south of Rio.
The team compliment to date includes:
- Ron and Portia Ritter- Pangaea Exploration- Divemaster and AOW.
- Dale Selvam- Pangaea Exploration- Divemaster
- Emily Penn- Pangaea Operations Manager
- Bill Oestreich- Bird’s Underwater, Crystal River FL. TDI/NACD Instructor
- David Schott/Becky Kagan – Liquid Productions
- François-Xavier Saint-Martin- Sailor/ Pangaea Marketing Brazil
- Liana John- Environmental Journalist, Brazilian
- George Georigiadas- Brazilian conservationist, Divemaster