The United States largest marine sanctuary spans north to south more than 350 miles (563.3 kilometers) along central Californias dramatic coastline. It extends on average 35 miles (56 kilometers) out to sea, past rocky promontories and dense kelp forests. Across the center of the sanctuary, the submarine Monterey Canyon, called the Grand Canyon of the Ocean, cuts a deep gash in the continental shelf. Exotic fluids bubble up from cold seeps in the sanctuarys seafloor.
This varied geology attracts a diverse population of marine life to the sanctuarys coastline and waters. Along the rocky intertidal zone, mussels and ocher starfish cling tenaciously to the reef, while, in early winter, male elephant seals loll about on sandy beaches with their harems. Farther out, the dense kelp canopy shelters abalone, sea urchins, rockfish, and sea otters. In the open ocean bioluminescent organisms fitfully brighten the watery depths with their otherworldly sparkle and glow.
During the year a cavalcade of species passes through the Monterey Bay sanctuary on its way to other destinations. Dolphins, whales, salmon, and the worlds largest creaturethe blue whaleare seasonal visitors, as are thousands upon thousands of migratory birds.
Related Site: Monterey Bay
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