NOAA 2002-R425
Contact: Stephanie Balian
NOAA News Releases 2002
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National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration researchers revealed initial findings today from a recent expedition to a shipwreck near NOAA's Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary off Point Conception, Calif. NOAA is an agency of the Commerce Department.

Working on the NOAA-U.S. Navy project, scientists observed abundant marine life around the wreck. The wreck of the Pac Baroness occurred in 1987 and had not been visited since initial surveys in 1987 and 1988.

The 162-meter commercial motor vessel bulk carrier Pac Baroness collided with an auto carrier in 1987 and sank with tanks containing 278,943 gallons of fuel and lubricating oils and 21,000 tons of finely powdered copper concentrate in the cargo holds.

The first remotely operated vehicle reconnaissance dives on the wreck were conducted in November 1987 and again in January 1988. Sanctuary Quest, as coordinated by the Channel Islands Sanctuary staff, is the first expedition to visit the site in 14 years.

Working with the U.S. Navy, NOAA researchers used a remotely operated vehicle to take video and still camera images of abundant rockfish and other invertebrates. In addition, researchers collected dozens of sediment samples that will provide a more detailed chemical and biological analysis in the next few weeks. The expedition will allow researchers to map and characterize the site for future missions that will monitor any future ecological impacts and potential threats to marine life.

The reconnaissance dive is part of a larger NOAA exploration cruise known as Sanctuary Quest: West Coast Expedition 2002.

NOAA manages the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary to protect and reserve the unique marine ecology within its boundaries. Assessing this and other sanctuary shipwreck sites will help determine further steps necessary to ensure that the marine ecosystems are protected.

The Navy's 200-foot Remotely Operated Vehicle Independence provided researchers with the capability to monitor, survey and film deepwater activities. Originally built for the U.S. Air Force to support the space shuttle operations on the West Coast, the Independence operates as an ocean-going worldwide research ship out of Port Hueneme, Calif.

The team of NOAA researchers are from the agency's National Ocean Service, which manages the National Marine Sanctuary Program. NOAA Ocean Service is dedicated to exploring, understanding, conserving and restoring the nation's coasts and oceans.

NOAA Sanctuaries seeks to increase the public awareness of America's maritime heritage by conducting scientific research, monitoring, exploration, and educational programs. Today, 13 national marine sanctuaries encompass more than 18,000 square miles of America's ocean and Great Lakes natural and cultural resources.

For more information about the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, visit

To learn more about NOAA Ocean Service and NOAA Sanctuaries, please visit