Explorers from National Geographic and the marine conservation group Oceana recently began their groundbreaking deep-sea expedition off the coast of Chile’s Islas de los Desventuradas.
“They might be one of the last pristine places left in the South American seas,” National Geographic marine ecologist and expedition leader Enric Sala wrote about the islands. “We know more about the geology of the Moon than about the underwater world of the Desventuradas.”
Islas de los Desventurados are four small islands over 500 miles (800 kilometers) from the coast of Chile, located almost due west of Antofagasta. By delving into these uncharted waters, explorers hope to discover new marine life and survey the environmental status of this fragile ecosystem.
After analyzing their findings, National Geographic and Oceana will provide the Chilean Government with the results.
“This scientific expedition will give us insight into its ecological importance and will determine if it requires some form of protection,” Oceana’s vice president for South America and co-expedition-leader Alex Muñoz wrote online.
The team is equipped with cutting edge deep-sea technology like loose-circuit rebreathers that allow explorers to dive without creating bubbles, drop-cams equipped for filming thousands of meters under the sea, and the DeepSee submarine, which permits 360 degree vision as many as 1,312 feet (400 meters) below sea level.
Muñoz detailed one of his first descents in the DeepSee Submarine with delight on the National Geographic’s Explorers Journal blog.
“Avi (our pilot) said, ‘This is the exact definition of exploration!’ And wow, was he right,” Muñoz wrote. “As my colleagues and I were full of excitement, before we knew it, we reached 130 meters. Thousands of fish, from brecas to Jack mackerel, sharks to vidriolas surrounded us.”
Since the expedition’s launch, both Sala and Muñoz have posted online updates chronicling their unexpected and delightful finds—giant lobsters, human-sized fish, and some species not previously known by scientists.
“The excitement of being at this depth with no lights or sound is incredible,” Muñoz wrote about the experience he had when their underwater flashlights were switched off. “The peace that you feel is unparalleled.”