In 2012, Pristine Seas, a National Geographic project that aims to find the oceans’ last remote pristine locations, approached Oceana in search of an ally to explore the marine ecosystems of San Felix and San Ambrosio: the Desventuradas Islands. An expedition that, once completed, surprised the world with the discovery of abundant life on the ocean floors and unique fauna that showed no signs of human impact. The expedition ended with the creation of what would later become the largest marine park of the South Pacific Ocean.

The crew, comprised of scientists and documentalists, embarked on the Argo, a ship brought in from Costa Rica that was especially adapted for diving. Sailing from Antofagasta, the team took off on an 850-kilometer journey. Two days later they sighted the islands, both uninhabited, and the only signs of human life are the Chilean navy base in San Félix and a small shelter built by Robinson Crusoe’s lobster fishermen who travel to the San Felix to fish.

During the next two weeks, researchers would discover intact marine ecosystems. With the help of DeepSee Hunter, a submarine that provides 360-degree vision, they were able to go down 406 meters deep and observe a landscape full of life: waving algae forests, abundant fish populations including giant tuna, yellowtail amberjacks, and deep sea sharks, as well as fragile deep sea corals.

Scientific divers were surprised, not only by the enormous size of lobsters, measuring over a meter in length and weighing almost eight kilos, but also because of the large number of young jack mackerels suggesting this was an important area for the recovery of this overexploited species. The collected data allowed to conclude that 72% of the fish species observed were endemic of the eco-region formed by the Desventuradas Islands and the Juan Fernández Archipelago, becoming one of the places with the highest percentage of endemism in the world.

With all the information collected, Oceana and Pristine Seas presented a proposal to the government in office to protect the area’s great biodiversity, threatened by illegal fishing and trawling. It was materialized in 2015 with the creation of a large marine park of 300,035 square kilometers, which became the largest of the South Pacific Ocean. With the collected audiovisual material, National Geographic produced the documentary “Journey to Chile’s Wild Islands”.

To continue researching these ecosystems, especially seamounts, in 2016 Oceana’s team was invited to participate in an expedition that was part of the second Oceanic Islands Marine Research Cruise (CIMAR 22 in Spanish), a program that aims to produce scientific-marine knowledge in areas considered to have strategic value. On this occasion, a multidisciplinary team of scientists from different Chilean universities explored the peaks of seven seamounts and other sites that had not been visited during the expedition in 2013.

By combining the collection of biological samples and film recordings using Oceana’s remote operations vehicle (ROV), numerous new species for science were identified. The numerous presence of sharks and lobsters was confirmed and, most importantly, it was confirmed that each seamount had its own fauna and diversity, one more reason that backed the creation of this extensive marine park for the world.





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Associated documents

Desventuradas Islands: Biodiversity and conservation proposal (in Spanish)