A Yellow Submarine Explores the Depths of the Panamanian Pacific | Smithsonian Voices

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After virtually 30 hours of crusing from Panama Metropolis, the M/V Argo, with six researchers and two science communicators on board, stopped close to the fifth parallel: a couple of meters from the road that divides Panamanian and Colombian waters. An extended underwater mountain vary shared by each nations rose from the ocean ground, considered one of its peaks instantly under the ship, at a depth of about 130 meters. The Colombian aspect of the seamount had been explored earlier than, however the Panamanian aspect had not. The scientific expedition led by marine ecologist Héctor Guzmán from the Smithsonian Tropical Analysis Institute and MigraMar, and with researchers from Costa Rica, Ecuador, Colombia and Panama, can be the primary to take action.

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The DeepSee submarine allowed the exploration of a number of the shallowest seamounts within the Cordillera de Coiba, between 130 and 350 meters deep.

Ana Endara, Smithsonian Tropical Analysis Institute

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Within the fashion of French explorer Jacques Cousteau, Guzman would descend twice a day within the DeepSee, a three-seater yellow submarine piloted by the crew of the Argo, reaching as much as 350 meters deep—about ten occasions deeper than a technical dive. He would discover not solely the seamount positioned on the fifth parallel, but additionally three different mounts linked by the identical underwater mountain vary that connects Panama with Costa Rica, Ecuador and Colombia. Generally known as the Cordillera de Coiba, this vary can be the centerpiece of a marine protected space that the Authorities of Panama just lately expanded to 68,000 km2, making it potential for the nation to attain the United Nations 2030 objective of defending 30% of its oceans 9 years forward of the goal date.

“Panama has taken a large step ahead and is main the area in conservation points,” mentioned César Peñaherrera, PhD in quantitative marine sciences at Migramar and one of many scientists on the expedition. “In lower than seven years it has managed not solely to create new marine protected areas, however to fulfill lots of the objectives of the worldwide 30×30 initiative.”

The info collected in the course of the ten days at sea would assist to higher perceive and defend the marine reserve designated by Mission Blue as a Hope Spot: a novel place that has been recognized as crucial to the well being of the oceans.

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Deep within the water, the place the solar’s glare now not reaches and the blue sea turns black, the DeepSee turned on its headlights and commenced to discover the seamounts. Eleven dives on the 2 shallowest mounts detected in the course of the expedition revealed an abundance of a yellow mushy coral, which was collected and might be analyzed to find out if it’s a new species. A range of fish, eels, sponges, sea cucumbers, crustaceans and starfish, amongst others, have been additionally discovered. A number of kilos of rock have been collected to higher perceive their geological origin and to have the ability to examine the mount with Hannibal Financial institution, 200 miles north. 

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Eleven submarine dives revealed the abundance of a yellow mushy coral within the two seamounts explored in the course of the expedition. Samples have been collected to find out if it’s a new species.

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Ana Endara, Smithsonian Tropical Analysis Institute

Pelagic species—akin to sharks, sailfish, rays and turtles—have been monitored at a depth of 10 meters by baited distant underwater video techniques (BRUVS), chrome steel buildings with three video cameras and a container of chopped fish designed to draw them with their scent. Since seamounts are aggregation areas for migratory marine species, expectations have been excessive to find which animals have been circulating across the Cordillera de Coiba.

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The primary sightings with the BRUVs didn’t take lengthy. From the start, sharks have been noticed, together with the uncommon thresher shark (Alopias pelagicus) and a faculty of roughly 60 hammerhead sharks (Sphyrna lewini), a critically endangered species. One other large shock was the looks of a Masturus lanceolatus, or sharptail mola, in the direction of the top of the expedition, as it’s a fish that lives in oceans world wide, however is never detected. In complete, some 900 hours of video have been collected, together with 360-degree movies, which might be analyzed in additional element later. Preliminarily, nonetheless, the findings counsel that this can be an vital space for migratory marine species.

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Marta Cambra, from the College of Costa Rica and the Middle for Analysis in Marine Sciences and Limnology (CIMAR) launches BRUVS from the primary vessel.

Ana Endara, Smithsonian Tropical Analysis Institute

The submarine dives additionally stunned researchers on the final day of exploration: a web site was detected with an abundance of prickly sharks (Echinorhinus cookei), a deep-sea species of which little or no is understood, as it’s not straightforward to look at. The discover was made on a seamount named by Guzman in honor of the just lately deceased marine explorer and Coiba Nationwide Park diver, Kevan Mantell. 

“Our expedition was complex, its success depended on the extraordinary effort and teamwork of the scientific staff alongside the crew from the ship and submarine,” mentioned Guzmán. “We achieved our initial goals, assessing migratory species and exploring never-before-seen seamounts that stand out in this great country yearning for science and discovery.”

Regardless of the thrilling and eye-opening discoveries of this primary scientific expedition to the Cordillera de Coiba, some moments have been much less hopeful. All through the journey it was frequent to look at trash floating on the excessive seas, particularly plastic bottles. A number of fishing traces have been noticed, caught within the seamounts.

And eventually, a small vessel was recognized crusing near the Argo in the course of the midpoint of the expedition, which was shark finning within the marine protected space, a merciless and unlawful observe prohibited in Panama and which threatens shark populations and the overall well being of the oceans. Coincidentally, on the times that vessel was near the scientific expedition, the quantity of marine fauna recorded on the BRUVS was drastically decreased. The implementation of the just lately authorized administration plan for the Cordillera, which features a satellite tv for pc monitoring system, might be crucial for guaranteeing it is a genuinely protected space.

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The primary exploratory mission to the Cordillera de Coiba, organized by the Smithsonian Tropical Analysis Institute and Migramar, led to thrilling and eye-opening discoveries.

Ana Endara, Smithsonian Tropical Analysis Institute

This primary scientific exploratory mission was made potential due to funding from the Smithsonian Tropical Analysis Institute, the STRI Advisory Board, the Collatos Household Basis, the Hothem household, Re:wild, the Wyss Basis and Mission Blue, in addition to the efforts of scientists representing MigraMar, the Worldwide Maritime College of Panama (UMIP), the College of Costa Rica and the Middle for Analysis in Marine Sciences and Limnology (CIMAR), Malpelo Basis and the unconditional help of the crew of the M/V Argo of Undersea Hunter Group.

The Smithsonian Tropical Analysis Institute, in Panama Metropolis, Panama, is a unit of the Smithsonian Establishment. The Institute promotes understanding of tropical nature and its significance to human well-being, trains college students to conduct analysis within the tropics, and fosters conservation by elevating public consciousness of the sweetness and significance of tropical ecosystems.

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