Dispatches

Operation: Sea Gate

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 specialty diver and experienced guide.

The primary objective of the expedition was to investigate shallow marine hydro-thermal activity around a group of islands called Las Islas Encantadas in the northern Gulf of California.

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. 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.

 

A few years earlier Dale Pearson 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 hydro-thermal 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 hydro-thermal 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 bio-diverse. Operation Sea Gate may help to elucidate how hydro-thermal venting influences the geochemistry and ecology of the Gulf of California.

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.

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