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