Photograph by Kevin Schafer/Corbis


Map of Cordell Bank

60 miles (97 kilometers) northwest of San Francisco

Protected Area
526 square miles (1,362 square kilometers)

Date Designated
May 1989

Rocky subtidal
Pelagic, or open, ocean
Soft sediment continental shelf and slope

Key Species
Pacific salmon
Humpback whale
Blue whale
Dall’s porpoise

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 Coast’s premier marine feeding grounds.

Humpback and blue whales and vast populations of fish feast on the transparent crustaceans called krill that swarm in the sanctuary’s cold waters. The bank also attracts Dall’s 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 bank’s steep ridges and pinnacles. Although the highest points of the bank rise to within 115 feet (35 meters) of the ocean’s 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 bank’s still mysterious lower levels.

For more information,
check out NOAA’s Cordell Bank profile:

Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary
Fort Mason
Building #201
San Francisco, CA 94123

Tel: +1 415 561 6622
Fax: +1 415 561 6616


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