Sustaniable Seas
Contact: Tim Tomastik


SAN FRANCISCO – A first-of-its kind exploration of the nation's 12 marine sanctuaries using sophisticated new submersible technology launches April 22 -- Earth Day -- to explore the ocean and learn how best to protect it. Beginning with the Gulf of Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, Sustainable Seas Expeditions will travel to ocean depths between 100 and 2,000 feet on a voyage of discovery.

Sustainable Seas Expeditions project is led by Sylvia Earle, famed oceanographer and National Geographic Society Explorer-in-Residence, and Francesca Cava, former National Marine Sanctuary Program director with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

"Two hundred years ago Lewis and Clark set out to explore the American landscape, and a century later President Theodore Roosevelt committed us to its conservation," said Earle. "Today we combine the ideals of exploration and conservation for a voyage into the ocean – America's last frontier – which remains largely unexplored and unprotected."

Sustainable Seas Expeditions, a project of the National Geographic Society in partnership with NOAA, is being made possible by an initial grant of $5 million from the Richard & Rhoda Goldman Fund, a private philanthropic foundation. The three fundamental goals of the expeditions are: undersea exploration, scientific research and public education and outreach.

"Marine sanctuaries are global treasures," said Commerce Secretary William M. Daley. "Each is a proud reflection of our commitment to the economic and environmental health of our planet, and an indispensable legacy for future generations." NOAA, an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, administers the national marine sanctuaries, the underwater equivalent of national parks.

Earle, Cava and other trained aquanauts, ranging from a teacher to marine biologists, will undertake a comprehensive exploration of each sanctuary, surveying life forms, habitats and geological formations below 100 feet. Scientists also will use the orbiting Global Positioning System to make 3-D maps and models of the sanctuaries. They will set up systems to monitor changes in the marine environment and to compare sanctuaries with areas that are overfished and polluted.

The data gathered will provide stronger foundations for marine research and conservation policies. The NOAA ship McArthur, operated and managed by officers of the NOAA Corps, the nation's seventh uniformed service, will be the primary platform for the California sites.

During the first expedition, site surveys will focus on safely establishing subtidal monitoring of the marine environment's health around the Farallon Islands, previously avoided because of white sharks. Investigations will be documented using cameras mounted on the untethered one-person submersible known as DeepWorker 2000.
A parallel goal of the project will be to promote an ocean ethic. "The living ocean drives planetary chemistry, governs climate and weather and provides the cornerstone of the life-support system for all species on Earth," Earle said. "If the sea is sick, we will feel it. If it dies, we die. Our future and the state of the oceans are one.

"We must explore our oceans before we exploit them," Earle said. "With knowing comes caring; with caring there's a hope that we'll find an enduring place for ourselves within the natural systems that sustain us. We now know enough to know better than those who came before us."

Sustainable Seas Expeditions has chosen Mike Guardino of Carmel (Calif.) High School to be a "Teacher in the Sea." He has been trained on DeepWorker in order to draw high school students into the program, said Cava, manager of the project. "A big component of this initiative is reaching out to children. This will include the production of educational materials, a powerful Web site, forums, chat rooms and an ocean summit for students in 2000," she said. The teacher will also conduct projects submitted by student teams for deployment by DeepWorker. Results will be shared on the Internet.

Sustainable Seas Expeditions will next visit the Monterey Bay and Channel Islands national marine sanctuaries. For more information, visit the Sustainable Seas Expeditions Web sites at or