Photographer John Brooks

Photographer John Brooks collects footage for a short video production. Click image for larger view.

Sanctuary Quest Underway

April 27, 2002

Julie Bursek, Education Coordinator
Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary

Early yesterday morning, science members of the Sanctuary Quest Expedition team boarded the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary (NMS) vessel XANTU in Santa Barbara Harbor and headed out to the Channel Islands NMS. They were to meet up with NOAA's research vessel McArthur off the east end of Santa Cruz Island at Yellow Banks. The skies were clearing after a storm system that had passed through the day before. Winds were blowing 20-25 mph and the seas were choppy at 3 to 4 feet. As the XANTU headed out across the Channel, Captain Matt Kelly carved a straight path to the east end of Santa Cruz, cutting through prevailing sea conditions at a 45-degree angle while maintaining a boat speed of 18 to 20 knots. Except for an occasional drop into a trough between swells, we made great time out to the Islands. It was an “e-ticket ride” to be sure!

Red Gorgonian

The red gorgonian (Lophogorgia chilensis) is a filter-feeding colonial species that lives on the rocky bottom at depths between 15 to 61 meters (50 to 200 feet.)

The seas calmed down once we maneuvered into the wind shadow of Santa Cruz Island. We met up with the McArthur at Yellow Banks and tied up along her starboard side to offload our gear and board the ship. Once onboard, we met up with Expedition team members John Brooks and Sarah Fangman, who were preparing for a SCUBA dive to film the navy's remotely-operated vehicle (ROV) underwater. John Brooks and his team are collecting footage for a short video production piece called “This is an Expedition.”

Surface currents were so strong at Yellow Banks that the giant stands of kelp, normally seen at the surface, were laying down—not great conditions in which to deploy and maneuver an ROV. So we pulled anchor and headed northwest along the south side of Santa Cruz Island to Smugglers Cove in search of calmer conditions.

We weren't disappointed! The conditions here were adequate for SCUBA diving and ROV operations. The water visibility was between 10 to 15 feet and there was little to no current. So ROV operators Vince Gerwe and Greg Cooper lowered the ROV into the water. It slowly made its descent to the ocean floor in Smugglers Cove.

Back on deck, we watched the video monitors as the ROV maneuvered between rocky reef and sand outcroppings. Every once in a while, the ROV would pass over huge masses of squid eggs. Brittle stars and gorgonian sea fans also were a common site on the bottom. We also spotted pelagic red crabs swimming at the surface around the McArthur—a very unusual sight in these chilly waters.

Tomorrow, weather permitting, we are off to San Miguel Island to explore a site offshore of Harris Point.

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