SANTIAGO, Chile (Feb. 7, 2013)—On Friday, Feb. 8, National Geographic and Oceana are launching a joint expedition to the Desventuradas Islands, located 850 km off the coast of Chile, opposite the Atacama region. With a team of world-renowned scientists and the use of cutting-edge technology, the expedition will study for the first time the marine biodiversity in what is considered one of the most remote and unexplored areas in the world.
“It is incredible that there are still unknown places to explore on our planet. This expedition will show whether the mysterious Desventuradas Islands are one of the last pristine places in the ocean,” said expedition leader and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Enric Sala.
Alex Muñoz, executive director of Oceana and co-leader of the expedition, stated, “If we do not know this ecosystem, we cannot gauge its actual value or whether it is exposed to damage from activities such as fishing. This scientific expedition will give us insight into its ecological importance and will determine if it requires some form of protection.”
Comprising San Félix and San Ambrosio, the islands are uninhabited except for a Chilean naval base on San Félix. During certain times of the year, a small group of Juan Fernández fishermen move to the islands to fish for lobsters. National Geographic’s Pristine Seas project has identified the area around the Desventuradas Islands as one of the last potential pristine environments left in South America.
The expedition brings together a select group of scientists from National Geographic; Oceana; University of Hawaii; University of California, Santa Barbara; and Catolica del Norte in Chile, as well as world-renowned cameramen and underwater photographers. The expedition is supported by Blancpain and Davidoff Cool Water.
One of the newest features of the expedition is the DeepSee submarine that will be used for the first time in Chile. The DeepSee can dive to 450 meters with three passengers on board, maintaining 360-degree vision thanks to its transparent acrylic dome. In addition, the team will use the spherical glass Drop-Cam system to film in depths down to 4,000 meters. The expedition will take place aboard the 40-meter-long vessel Argo.
The voyage to the Desventuradas Islands is the second collaboration between National Geographic and Oceana Chile. Both organizations, together with the Chilean Navy, led a similar expedition in February 2011 to Salas y Gómez and Easter Island. Like the first collaboration, the expedition to Desventuradas Islands will be the basis of a comprehensive scientific report.
National Geographic’s Pristine Seas project is an exploration, research and media project to find, survey and help protect the last wild places in the ocean. Oceana has achieved important advances for the conservation of marine ecosystems, such as the approval of a law that bans bottom trawling on all the seamounts in Chile as well as a law that bans shark finning.
Both organizations, after conducting an exploratory expedition to Salas y Gómez in March 2010, proposed the creation of the Salas y Gómez marine park, Motu Motiro Hiva, which was declared by Chilean President Sebastián Piñera in September 2010. It covers an area of 150,000 square km.