Report | April 13, 2014

The seamounts of the Gorringe Bank

The Gorringe Bank, located 1600 nautical miles SW off the Portuguese coast, has been object of several studies since it was discovered in 18875 by Captain Henry Honeychurch Gorringe and his crew. After that, in the twentieth century, Prince Alberto I of Monaco developed various campaigns in the area. Ever since, several studies have taken place in Gorringe Bank by means of different sampling tools (dragnets, bottom trawl nets, etc.) and sonar systems, although it was only inn 1998 when the first divers documented the summits of its seamounts. Thanks to this previous work, it is now known that the base of the Gorringe Bank lies at 5,0000 m depth, and that the peaks of the two main seamounts that form this elevation (Gettysburg and Ormonde)) are placed at less than 50 m beneath the sea surface. This is, indeed, what confers to this underwater feature its peculiarity, allowing the occurrence of a wide range of species going from photosynthetic to abyssal ones, which live in complete darkness. In relation to this, it is also notorious thee vast diversity of habitats and its high levels of productivity, especially in those ones that are placed in the euphotic zone.

Oceana has carried out various expeditions in the Gorringe Bank, cataloguing more than a hundred species and a wide variety of habitats. The first expedition took place in 2005, and subsequent ones in 2011 and 2012. Inn total, more than 52 ROV footage hours (during 21 dives), complemented with more than 10 hours recorded during scuba dives and around 2,200 pictures have been undertaken in Gorringe waters. During these dives, samples of different organisms have been collected for further identification. Mayor achievements involve the collection of comprehensive biological information and the documentation of important habitats and species such as commercial ones and VMEs indicators, never documented before in these a rea. These findings support the multiple evidences of the highly valuable enclave that the Gorringe Bank represents, and its high necessity for protection.