Deep Sea Reporter in the Galapagos

26 July, 2022

DSR’s team participates in a scientific expedition on board the research vessel Argos.

After five hectic days, the expedition has returned to the main island of Santa Cruz to replace some scientists and crew. At the same time, the expedition is visited by journalists from CNN and Ecuador’s Minister of the Environment, who will accompany the expedition in its submarine.

The expedition will be led by Alex Hearn (Galapagos science center, Universidad San Francisco de Quito) and Sylvia Earl (Mission Blue) and will last 12 days. Local scientists together with international ones are conducting sampling and tagging to increase knowledge of the unique fauna here in Galapagos. The vessels also include a submarine that carries out two dives a day, down to 200-300 metres, to investigate the deeper parts of the reef. At the same time, “normal” dives down to 40 metres are carried out with researchers and filmmakers (about 3 dives per day).

submersible
The Deep See Submersible. Photo: Göran Ehlmé

The main question is how effective has the Marine National Park been in its first 25 years? Does it work?

The Galapagos became a “World natural heritage (UNESCO) site” as early as 1978, but only in 2001 a “marine reserve” – marine nature reserve.

Sylvia Earl was here for the first time back in 1966 and she can see the changes. 87 years old (young), she is with us in the deep, both with the submarine and as a diver. Absolutely amazing that this woman still has this “drive”. The dives here in the Galapagos are quite difficult. Strong current and high seas, but Sylvia is with us!

Expedition leader Alex Hearn has been studying developments here in Galapagos for the past 20 years. So together with Sylvia, he can create a good picture of the current situation.

sylvia earle
Sylvia Earle. Photo: Johan Candert

With modern methods such as E-DNA, tagging/tracking of tiger shark and yellowfin tuna, the expedition can monitor and study the evolution.

The uniqueness of the Galapagos is that the archipelago has such a diverse underwater environment. From the tropical north, with warm waters from Panama and coral reefs, to the colder west, where currents bring cold, nutrient-rich waters from the South Pole. That means we can study everything from penguins, sea lions and fur seals – to coral fish and sharks of all kinds.

whale shark
Whale shark. Photo: Göran Ehlmé

seal
Photo: Göran Ehlmé

Now the expedition is heading for the cold western and southern parts of the Galapagos. Diving iguanas, penguins, sea lions will be investigated but the main task is to look for the mythical kelp forests. When Sylvia was here in 1966 there were kelp forests between 40-80 meters. Are they still there?

Deep Sea Team at Galapagos: Johan Candert, Göran Ehlmé, Simon Stanford
Photo: Johan Candert, Göran Ehlmé

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