Pristine Seas

Rogue Wave Reveals Rich Underwater Habitat

Picture of a wave
Photograph by Andy Mann

The Pristine Seas team explores the Selvagens Islands, conducting among the first surveys of the islands’ underwater ecosystems—from shallow to deep—and filming the biodiversity around the islands. Learn more about this expedition.

by Selvagens Islands Expedition Leader Paul Rose

We thrive on diving in wild places and love the feeling of jumping into the water without knowing what’s under the surface. But finding the dive sites is a tricky business. Even after our extensive predeparture research using every bit of information that we can get our hands on—science reports, surveys, local knowledge—finding the exact place to dive often comes down to us following our instincts.

Today, off the coast of Selvagem Pequena, we were drawn to a beautiful series of large waves, indicating a small seamount. The oceanic swell was being forced over the steep sides of the undersea mountain, creating a magnificent wave. Breaking waves like this usually mean trouble for divers, but for us it represented the promise of steep walls and a nutrient-rich upwelling supporting an abundance of life.

Faced with an opportunity like this it’s always worth taking a chance, so we just had to go for it. After getting our boat awash a few times we positioned to the side of the breaking wave, timed it carefully, and jumped into an Atlantic Ocean washing machine. We escaped the surface turbulence by descending fast into fabulous blue water. Jacques Cousteau called this the “clearest water in the world,” and it is the most brilliant blue. As the heaving oceanic swell pushed us back and forth we joined vast schools of chubbs (which I love, as they make a very friendly grunting noise), wrasse, and barracuda, all mixed up with pieces of floating weed ripped off the rock by the power of the wave.

Dives like this are a moving experience in every sense of the word: What better connection to the ocean could we have than to feel its immeasurable power by being rolled around in a beautiful wave in the middle of the ocean, on the summit of a seamount, surrounded by grunting fish? We love the Selvagens!

The Selvagens Islands expedition is underway in partnership with the Waitt Foundation and the University of Western Australia.

We thank our corporate sponsors Blancpain and Davidoff Cool Water.

Order the Pristine Seas Book

The last of the pristine seas offer a fascinating glimpse into our past and an inspiring vision for the future. In Pristine Seas: Journeys to the Ocean’s Last Wild Places, National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Enric Sala takes readers on a dazzling journey to ten of these astounding locations, showing what we have to gain by protecting our seas.

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