Elfin Cove and the Inians

Sep 06, 2019 - National Geographic Venture

Perfect weather allowed for ideal conditions to explore the Inian Islands today! We started off the day by Elfin Cove, getting the opportunity to hear from Mary Jo who told us about life in her little village. Later we stretched our legs off the ship and walked around the small village taking in the beauty of the houses, boats, trees, as well as the local museum and shops.

We returned to the ship for some lunch and then spent a perfect afternoon taking guided Zodiac tours of the islands. The clear skies allowed for views of the Fairweather mountain range. Among the kelp and islands, we spotted sea lions and sea otters playing. On the rocky islands and on the water, alcids, cormorants, bald eagles, rhinoceros Auklets, and gulls perched and flocked.

As the day progressed, we were lucky enough to perform two DropCam deployments while in the Inian Islands. The DropCam is a 4K camera encased in a glass sphere and rated to a depth of 6,000 meters. It was created by engineers at National Geographic and has been deployed over 500 times since its first mission. In an effort to get more DropCams exploring what’s in the deep sea, National Geographic, Lindblad Expeditions, and MIT teamed up for a pilot program that provides DropCam training to Lindblad undersea specialists and MIT researchers so that they can deploy the cameras and communicate their findings to passengers, turning the expedition ship into a research vessel.

The first deployment was near Elfin Cove, where we successfully dropped the camera about 250 feet down and retrieved it right before lunch. The video showed marine snow, zooplankton, and jellyfish. The second drop was a bit more mysterious. We were in the Inian Islands and seemed to have successfully dropped the camera, but about an hour into the four-hour mission, the camera surfaced, and was spotted by the ship’s captain and picked up from the water. The camera turns on and off in cycles, and it had not turned on even once before it was brought back to the ship. Because the burn wire, buoy, and rope were all intact, it is a mystery why it would have come up before the anchor was physically pulled. Our best guess is that an upwelling pushed it from the bottom, and it didn’t make its way back down.

We finished the day with an entertaining and informative recap and a delicious dinner, while the kids onboard enjoyed a pizza and movie night without the bothersome adults.

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About the Author

Devora Najjar | MIT Media Lab

Devora Najjar | MIT Media Lab

About the Photographer

James Hyde

Undersea Specialist

James is a home-grown, free-range Pacific Northwest outdoorsmen. Born in Seattle and reared nearby on Vashon Island, he grew up in and surrounded by the Salish Sea. James has saltwater in his veins, but would be quick to point out we all do, echoing Carl Safina " We are, in a sense, soft vessels of seawater." Born with the travel bug, James was fortunate enough to spend time on four continents before graduating college. During his studies at Western Washington University's Huxley College of the Environment, James went to Australia and visited the Great Barrier Reef. He was never the same. A lifetime of playing in the productive, but opaque green water of the Northwest had offered him little firsthand experience of the creatures below its depths, but with a clear view of the colorful dramas playing out across the bottom of the tropical Pacific, he was hooked. Scuba diving and underwater ecology were solidified as his passion and after college, it took him to a dive shop in Seattle fixing gear, tidepooling with local middle school students, and generally making a spectacle of himself in the surf.

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