Monthly Archives: January 2011

Sylvia Receives Life Time Achievement Award

By Sheila A. McKenna, SEAlliance Senior Research Scientist Sylvia Earle speaking after accepting her life time achievement award from NCSE, Washington DCPhoto: Jenifer Austin Our Changing Oceans, the 11th National Conference on Science, Policy and Environment, took place in Washington, DC from January 19-21, 2011. At the end of day two, Her Deepness, Dr. Sylvia A. Earle, was awarded the National Council for Science and the Environment Lifetime Achievement Award. After being befittingly introduced by ocean champion, Congressman Sam Farr, Dr. Earle took the stage wearing her signature light blue blazer and infectious smile to an enthusiastic standing ovation from the packed auditorium. Once on stage, Her Deepness cast her magic by opening with a seven-minute clip of the documentary/movie about her TED Wish and Mission Blue.…
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Cuba: Footage from our 2010 expedition

SEAlliance, Director of Expeditions and Photography, Kip Evans, just posted this fantastic teaser from our 2009 expedition to Cuba, one of our prominent  Hope Spots.  Read about the expeditions highlights on our blog here “Cuba: Protecting a Priceless Ecological Resource.”…
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Mission Blue: Tracking Whale Shark Wanderings

University of Southern Mississippi ecophysiologist Eric Hoffmayer received a National Geographic Society/Waitt grant to tag and track whale sharks in the northern Gulf of Mexico. Last June while diving with Sylvia Earle and a filmmaking team led by Bob Nixon, Hoffmayer witnessed roughly 100 of the sharks–the largest gathering ever recorded of this, the world’s largest fish species–at Ewing Bank off the Louisiana coast. Several days later, three of the filter-feeding sharks were filmed at the surface near the Deepwater Horizon blowout site, skimming waters coated with spilled oil. Aboard the research vessel Brooks McCall with the Mission Blue team, Hoffmayer relates what’s known about the Gulf’s whale sharks and some of the many mysteries surrounding their migrations. By Eric Hoffmayer Whale sharks (Rhincodon typus) are probably more susceptible to oil than most sharks or other fish because of their surface filter-feeding behavior.…
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Mission Blue: The Wake-Up Call

Aboard ship in the Gulf of Mexico, ecologist and author Carl Safina of Stony Brook University’s Blue Ocean Institute talks with Sylvia Earle about the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and its aftermath. “It was a wake-up call,” says Carl, “and I hope we don’t hit the snooze button because it will happen again. There are thousands of rigs. There is pipe all over the seafloor carrying oil and gas all the time. There’s a lot of opportunity for things to go wrong.” By SYLVIA EARLE and CARL SAFINA Earle: I’m really glad you could come on board and join this expedition, Carl. Safina: I’m honored to be invited here. Thank you. Earle: We’ve had some good news and bad news so far.…
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Mission Blue: Second Successful Team Dive in the Dual Deepworker

Though foiled by weather mere seconds before a planned sub launch on their morning attempt to dive together, executive director of the Harte Research Institute Larry McKinney and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Sylvia Earle persevere, and the effort pays off: They complete a successful shallow-water dive off the Florida coast in the dual Deepworker sub–the second of the expedition. Joseph Lepore lowers the transparent dome on Deepworker pilot Sylvia Earle. By LARRY McKINNEY and SYLVIA EARLE McKinney: What did we see? A lot of green “sea snot”–that’s what we used to call it. To be more polite about it, it was the bay getting ready to bloom. It’s over the winter, and that’s what’s happening out there right now. There’s a lot of winter plankton in the water and a lot of nutrients.…
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Mission Blue: Grim Forecast Sends Medusa Ashore

After two journeys to the bottom of the sea and back, a grim marine weather forecast–60-knot winds and 12- to 16-foot seas–for target deepwater drop sites forces the Medusa back to shore. The Medusa, back on deck after its second and final descent of the expedition. By EDIE WIDDER We’ve been WOW: Waiting On Weather. So much of what we do at sea is dependent on the weather, or more specifically the sea state. We have three- to four-foot seas at the moment, which is smooth sailing by some standards, but too bumpy for submersible operations. A submersible is fine strapped to the deck or tooling around beneath the waves. It’s just that transition through the air-water interface that’s the problem.…
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Mission Blue: Moments From Deployment

National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Sylvia Earle and Harte Research Institute Executive Director Larry McKinney prepare for Mission Blue’s second Gulf dive in the Deepworker submarine, but rising winds and seas put the mission on hold mere moments from deployment. The duo shares their frustration with the uncooperative weather, and their determination to try again. Larry McKinney and Sylvia Earle pose together before the day’s first dive attempt. By SYLVIA EARLE and LARRY McKINNEY Earle: The ocean does not yield her secrets easily. We do everything we can to accommodate what you know is going to happen: wind, waves. We have a deployment system that is appropriate for whatever weather comes along. In the end, it’s the judgment call of the dive supervisor to say “I don’t want to risk either equipment or the people involved.” So we’re just going to wait for better circumstances.…
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Mission Blue: Video Postcard–Into the Deep

A few days into the Mission Blue expedition to the Gulf of Mexico, oceanographer and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Sylvia Earle sends a video invitation: “Let us take you along as we venture into the deep, and come back with reasons for hope.” By SYLVIA EARLE Pensacola, Florida, with the research vessel Brooks McCall. I’m Sylvia Earle, about to launch the Mission Blue expedition to the Gulf of Mexico. We have a great sendoff. We’re going to go explore and try to determine, if we can, some of the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill of 2010. We’ve got a little submarine, the Deepworker, that takes two of us. There’s Tom Shirley and myself going through the preparation to make a dive.…
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Mission Blue: The Land of Oz

On the Survivors of the Spill expedition’s second attempt, we successfully deploy the Waitt Institute’s dual Deepworker sub in relatively shallow waters near the Florida coast. Moments after their safe return to the research vessel Brooks McCall, oceanographer and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Sylvia Earle and ecologist Thomas Shirley describe the green “blizzard of life” that enveloped them. Sylvia Earle and Tom Shirley prepare to dive in the Deepworker sub. By SYLVIA EARLE and THOMAS SHIRLEY Earle: We saw lots of jelly: Jellyfish and jelly goo! It’s like marine snow. It really was like driving through a snowstorm. Shirley: It was like driving through Jello! Earle: A blizzard. A blizzard of life. Like minestrone. Shirley: We turned off the lights on the bottom, and it didn’t make much of a difference, so we decided to leave the lights off to save power.…
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Mission Blue: Seafloor Dramas Unfold Before the Medusa’s Eye

On our second full day at sea, the Mission Blue: Survivors of the Spill team departs Roughtongue Reef for quieter waters near the head of the submerged Desoto Canyon. We drop the marine observatory Medusa to the bottom for the second time. Edie Widder of the Ocean Research and Conservation Association discusses what Medusa sees in the sea, and how. On the first attempt to retrieve the lander, the Medusa slips past tethering hooks, just out of reach. By EDIE WIDDER After the first dive yesterday, we were thrilled that Medusa came back, and it’s generally working. There are the usual little tweaks that need to be made, and that was the point of this first deployment. But we can see stuff in the video Medusa captured: fish, a lobster, angelfish… I always get a big kick out of observing the animal life down there unobtrusively.…
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