Operation Sea Gate: After Action Report
Operation Sea Gate, represented a collaborative effort between the Underwater Exploration Team component of the Prometheus Design Werx (PDW) Field Team, Dr. Matthew Forest, from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Saruhén Avila Moreno of Comisión Nacional de Áreas Naturales Protegidas from the Mexican Government, and Dale Pearson, a speciality diver and experienced guide.
The primary objective of the expedition was to investigate shallow marine hydrothermal activity around a group of islands called Las Islas Encantadas in the northern Gulf of California.
The actual dive operations spanned a 3 full days in the target areas. The sunny days in the mid 80s with light breezes, and balmy 84° average water temperatures made for great overall environmental conditions. The PDW Field Team travelled over 1600 miles overland, round trip and enjoyed viewing the unique, arid environment of Baja, Mexico along the way. The recent rains from a hurricane that landed in the area just days before had transformed much of the landscape from the typical dry browns to a unique and surreal low carpet of lush greens and refreshed flora. Often for hours at a time, no other vehicles were seen on the roads or trails. All food, fresh drinking water, supplies, and equipment for land and underwater were transported in their Toyota FJ Cruiser to their final destination and command center on the edge of the Sea of Cortez by the small, primitive fishing village of Puertocitos, Baja.
Dale Pearson-an experienced spearfisherman, guide and commercial diver who works extensively around the Islas Encantadas--discovered an area at 36 m (120 feet) water depth where hydrothermal fluids with temperatures of over 70°C (160°F) gushes from the seafloor. He also located an area just offshore from Isla San Luis where streams of gas bubbles are being released from the seafloor at water depths of 3-7m (15-23 feet). These discoveries were the impetus for Operation Sea Gate, and our mission was to finally collect the gas bubbles from their sources on the seafloor to ensure that the samples were not contaminated during their transit through the water column, as well as to procure samples of the bacterial mats for detailed scientific analyses.
The PDW Underwater Exploration Team successfully collected gas samples and bacterial mats from the hydrothermal vents. In order to capture gas samples for analyses, the divers had to fill glass vials and copper tubes with the gas bubbles. Copper has a low permeability, and is sufficiently soft to make a helium-leak proof seal. These copper tubes were placed on a specially machined aluminum rack and sealed underwater by tightening stainless steel clamps on each end of the tube. The gas and bacterial samples will be analyzed in scientific labs at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and Stony Brook University in order to help understand their chemical composition and ecological significance. Dr. Forrest believes that the hydrothermal vents may provide extra nutrients, and that the microbial mats may be contributing to the local food chain, which could help to explain why the areas surrounding the Islas Encantadas are so rich and biodiverse. Operation Sea Gate may help to elucidate how hydrothermal venting influences the geochemistry and ecology of the Gulf of California.
Additional Operation Insight
The unique geological aspects of the area included large house sized boulders of black obsidian on the island, and to the team’s amusement, found pumice rocks floating by in the water, where enough air was trapped in these rocks to keep them buoyant in sea water. Many species of fish, sea turtles, sting rays, coral, mollusks, birds, insects and more were spotted during the journey. On one of the dive days, the team took a side trip to explore an inland salt water lake on the Isla San Luis and we may have been some of the very first humans to have ever dove here.
The varied marine and land environments of the area also provided an ideal mix of field conditions for the PDW Team to use several of the prototype Griffin fixed blade skeleton knives. The knife found itself being brought to bear and used to cut and trim surgical tubing underwater during sample collection, gutting and filleting a freshly speared grouper, to any number of camp kitchen and camp type cutting chores.
The Prometheus Design Werx Field Team was proud and honored to have participated in Operation Sea Gate and contributed to the world’s knowledge base and the advancement of science. More than 70% of our planet is covered by the oceans and perhaps less than 5% of our oceans have been explored. The health of our planet’s oceans are vital to our survival as well as the enjoyment of our natural places. We encourage you to learn more about this vast, mysterious world and get out onto or under it and experience it for yourself.
PDW plans on future expeditions into the field; overland, underwater, or where ever the journey takes us. We hope to learn, contribute, gaze upon the stars at night, and simply enjoy the adventure and journey. Please stay tuned and we hope you enjoyed reading our first PDW Field Team Dispatch.
Operation Sea Gate: Wallpapers
We have created a few wallpapers featuring our Underwater Exploration Team Crest featuring our SPD Kraken for your desktop, laptop, and mobile devices.
U.E.T. Crest Wallpapers