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Not Seen Until 1978: The Cordell Bank Marine Sanctuary

Updated on February 11, 2013
3D image of the underwater area
3D image of the underwater area
Cordell  Bank Location
Cordell Bank Location

Discovered in the 1850's but not seen by any humans until 1978 is the Cordell Bank, some 25 miles off the Bodega Head in Sonoma County, California. Its age is 93 million years old and is 26 square miles in diameter and his a haven for a zoo of ocean creatures. Because of the southward ocean currents sweeping the area and upwelling the Cordell Bank is a gold mine for nutrients and food for a variety of sea creatures who often travel thousands of miles to feast there.

When the first scuba diver saw it in 1978, they were shocked at its underwater beauty, color and the amount of marine animals, all resembling a tropical paradise. The water was clear and refreshed from the continual wind and currents that take out the old and flush it then replace it with clear water from a depth of 1000 ft. The bottom nutrients flow to the upper levels and in effect, fertilize the area. When sunlight hits them to 100 ft., they ignite a green bloom of phytoplankton. Now, small animals like krill eat the plants. Soon, larger sea animals arrive and birds. Many creatures make the long trip to the feeding ground. Humpback whales travel 1400 miles from Baja, Mexico; Blue whales travel 3000 miles from Costa Rica; birds from New Zealand make the 6,600 mile trip, but the longest is done by the Leatherback turtle, who travels 8.700 miles from Indonesia! Hawaiian birds make their 2,400 mile journey as well, with bellies full of food that is regurgitated to their young when they return.

The Cordell Bank is an underwater zoo with 20 species that frequent it. Salmon, porpoises, cod, tuna, seals, sharks, crabs and more inhabit the area for its abundant food. Luckily, there is no fishing allowed, otherwise, mankind would destroy it.

Cordell Bank


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