The Orange County annual summer pelagic trip is sponsored by the Sea & Sage Audubon Society aboard the Sea Explorer, a research vessel belonging to the Ocean Institute of Dana Point. Our destination is the Fourteen Mile Bank, an underwater ridge about half way to Catalina Island, with its highest spot lying about 600 feet under the surface. The westernmost side of the bank has a fairly dramatic drop to 2400 feet (nearly a half-mile - think “steep mountainside”). Ocean currents push up against this underwater "cliff" and create upwellings of nutrient-rich water creating a chain of life: protoplankton > zooplankton > small fish > birds > bigger fish > bigger birds > marine mammals.
The Fourteen Mile Bank is unique among area underwater features because it has one of the shallowest offshore locations (only 600 feet deep) surrounded by much deeper water (1800-2400 feet) in fairly close proximity to the mainland. The bottom topography beyond the bank drops to deeper water with a flat and featureless bottom structure until the bottom rises rapidly at Catalina Island.
Catalina Island often acts as a wind break from westerly winds. Warm water tends to pool in the lee of Catalina between the island and the bank and as a result, temperature breaks often form near the bank, attracting life: crustaceans, small fish, seabirds, marlin, swordfish, tuna, sharks, marine mammals and whales.
Sea Explorer is a large, comfortable 70 foot research vessel with ample deck space & seating for great viewing of the ocean, good restroom facilities, great deck stability, two decks (upper and lower) and good power for quickly covering the distances not occupied by birds.
For more information, contact Sea & Sage Audubon at (949) 261-7963 or visit their Field Trips Page.
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