A virtually unexplored submerged mountain forms the heart of the Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary, situated off the California coast. Nutrient-rich water welling up from the ocean depths swirls around the bank, making it one of the West Coasts premier marine feeding grounds.
Humpback and blue whales and vast populations of fish feast on the transparent crustaceans called krill that swarm in the sanctuarys cold waters. The bank also attracts Dalls porpoises and multitudes of seabirds, including more species of albatross than can be found anywhere else in the Northern Hemisphere. In fact, it was by following the flocks of foraging birds that Edward Cordell of the U.S. Coast Survey in 1869 pinpointed the location of the underwater mountain that bears his name.
Under the waves a mosaic of crimson anemones, orange starfish, pale sponges, coral, scallops, barnacles, and snails encrusts the sunlit tops of the banks steep ridges and pinnacles. Although the highest points of the bank rise to within 115 feet (35 meters) of the oceans surface, most of the seamount is too deep to explore by scuba diving. DeepWorker submersibles will allow scientists to study the many species inhabiting the banks still mysterious lower levels.
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