Diving in a Deep-sea Cathedral

A diver explores a shallow, coral-encrusted seamount slope near Raja Ampat, Indonesia

A diver explores a shallow, coral-encrusted seamount slope near Raja Ampat, Indonesia; the remotely operated vehicle can descend to survey deeper reaches. This image was published in the September 2012 issue of National Geographic magazine, on newsstands August 28. (© Brian Skerry/National Geographic)

Scientists may be more familiar with the surface of Mars than the most remote parts of the ocean floor. We know that the waters covering 70% of our planet generate oxygen, regulate weather patterns and sustain fisheries critical for human survival, yet when it comes to understanding the ocean’s true value, we’ve only scratched the surface.

Greg Stone, CI’s chief ocean scientist, is determined to change this. Earlier this year, Greg and underwater photojournalist Brian Skerry led an expedition exploring Las Gemelas seamount, an underwater mountain near Cocos Island, 300 miles off the coast of Costa Rica. (Read more in their series of blogs from the trip.) Through several dives in a crowded submersible, highlighted in this month’s issue of National Geographic magazine, the participants provided valuable documentation — and stunning photos — of this little-studied region.

cover of September 2012 issue of National Geographic magazine

The images and full text from this seamount expedition can be found in the September 2012 issue of National Geographic magazine, on newsstands August 28. (credit: National Geographic)

“At about 700 feet the sub’s dazzling lights bring the bottom into view. Klapfer maneuvers deftly, but the current is strong, and we may not be able to stay down for too long. Suddenly something just beyond the lights rises from the otherwise featureless seafloor. We joke that maybe we’ve found a new wreck, but instead it is a volcanic remnant, perhaps millions of years old. Within minutes a muffled whir tells us that Klapfer has reversed the thrusters and is bringing the sub into position to hover inches from the bottom, inside an ancient, circular vent of the now extinct volcano that forms Las Gemelas. Its sculptured walls look like the facade of a deep-sea cathedral.”

Read the full article (and see more photos).

Molly Bergen is the managing editor on CI’s news and publicity team.

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