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Bound for the Blue

CocosIsland.jpg

Greetings from Costa Rica, faithful BlogWild followers. For the next three weeks, I’m headed to sea.

National Geographic Fellow Enric Sala, National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Sylvia Earle, and a team of leading marine scientists from Central America and across the globe have gathered here. Destination: Cocos Island—Isla del Coco, ringed by some of the most shark-rich waters anywhere—and the submerged and all-but-unexplored summits of Las Gemelas (“The Twin Sisters”) seamounts.

The expedition is part of Ocean Now, a project designed to survey the last pristine sites in the ocean and increase our understanding of the value of healthy natural ecosystems to our planet. These surveys will provide the first quantitative data on—and images of—the biodiversity of Las Gemelas, which will provide a baseline scientific context for other seamounts in Costa Rica and the eastern tropical Pacific.

I’ll be sending back the latest direct from the ship to the Ocean Now site, with occasional updates here as well. (Friends at Nat Geo headquarters have volunteered to keep BlogWild fresh with other news while I’m away.)

If you dive, you’ve probably heard of Cocos. Renowned ocean explorer Jacques-Yves Cousteau called it “the most beautiful island on Earth.”

Cocos is legendary for its schools of hammerheads, plus its white tip reef sharks, whale sharks, dolphins, tuna, marlin, turtles, and manta rays.

Rising seawater, cold and nutrient-rich, helps creatures flourish off Cocos’ shores. Rife with large marine predators, many migratory, Cocos is a Serengeti of the sea.

Above water, Cocos is shrouded in rain forest and cloud forest, bedecked with waterfalls, alive with endemic creatures. Even if you’ve never pulled on a pair of fins, you already know this lush volcanic island. Scholars have argued that Cocos helped inspire both Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island and Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe. Real pirates hid real treasure here.

While Cocos has helped define the world’s image of an untouched island paradise for centuries, the Gemelas seamounts have lurked, mostly unseen and unknown, beneath hundreds of feet of seawater. But marine creatures know them as fertile and important waypoints on their wanderings. These rich feeding grounds may be critical to the survival of many of the migratory predators that pass through them.

Two research ships. One manned submersible. An intrepid team. The whole month of September. Don’t get stranded on shore: Swim along with us!


Photograph courtesy Sarah Wilson