National Geographic : 2012 Sep
• are some , seamounts at least one kilo- meter (, feet) high. But if you include others that range from small hills to rolling mountains, there may be as many as a million of them. We've seen little of these oases of life in the deep. Of all Earth's seamounts, marine biologists have studied only a few hundred. More nely detailed maps of the surface of Mars may exist than of the remotest parts of the ocean oor. Scientists don't often explore their slopes firsthand---or even their shallower summits: living mazes of hard coral, sponges, and sea fans circled by schools of sh, some of them orange roughy that have lived to be more than a hun- dred years old. Among the teeming life, might there be new species that could produce new chemical compounds that can cure diseases, possibly even cancer? Las Gemelas was designated a Seamounts Marine Management Area in by Laura Chinchilla, president of Costa Rica. Her goal: to "help set clear parameters to defend one of the greatest zones of marine wealth on the planet." But for seamounts worldwide, this wealth is threatened. More and more, deep-sea shing trawlers drag nets weighted with heavy chains across seamounts to catch schools of sh that congregate around them. In the process the nets destroy long-lived and slow-growing cor- als, sponges, and other invertebrates. Once these underwater communities are disrupted, it can take hundreds, even thousands, of years for them to reestablish themselves. We turn a ghostly greenish blue in the light, kept dim so we can see outside. Clear, pulsing n Society Grant Gregory Stone's seamount research was funded in part by your Society membership.