Notes from the Nautilus Blog: Departure Day

IEEE Earthzine’s Jenny Woodman is blogging from the Exploration Vessel (E/V) Nautilus. Read more about her journey here.

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The E/V Nautilus departing San Francisco in the fog on Aug. 6. Image Credit: Jenny Woodman

We left San Francisco promptly at 9 a.m. Sunday. Everyone was thrilled to go under the Golden Gate Bridge; we all lingered on the monkey deck above the bridge on E/V Nautilus in spite of the cold and wind. I saw my first humpback whale (technically, I only saw the tail end of his or her fluke, but it was exciting nonetheless). We saw tons of brown pelicans, double-crested cormorants, and common murres. I’m enamored with the murres after a visit to Point Reyes National Seashore on Thursday, where I saw a colony nesting area near the lighthouse.

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A colony of common murres on the rocky shores in Point Reyes National Seashore. Image Credit: Jenny Woodman

For our first dive, we’re heading out to Bodega Canyon in Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary. The sanctuary was established in 1989 and expanded in 2015 and much of the 1,286 square mile area is unexplored. The canyon we are heading to ranges in depth from about 500 to 3,000 meters, according to Dani Lipski, lead scientist for this expedition; she is also the research coordinator for the sanctuary.

When the remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) are deployed, Lipski and her team will be looking for rocky spots along the ocean floor that are likely host to coral and sponge communities. Using ROV Hercules, the science team will collect biological samples for identification and water samples to monitor for pollutants and any changes in chemistry.

“We know a bit about the productivity; Cordell Bank is a hotspot for marine mammals and seabirds,” said Cordell Bank Education and Outreach Coordinator Jenny Stock. “It’s kind of cool we’re getting to go down below and see what’s there.”

My watch will be noon-4 p.m. and midnight to 4 a.m., whenever the ROVs are deployed. You can tune in any time and follow the dives live at www.Nautiluslive.org.

Jenny Woodman is a science writer and Writing Fellowship Coordinator for IEEE Earthzine; she lives Portland, Oregon. Follow her on Twitter: @JennyWoodman