Mana

a Seamount off of Motu Motiro Hiva

by Javier Sellanes
Núcleo Milenio de Ecología y Manejo Sustentable de islas Oceánicas
(ESMOI)–Facultad de Ciencias del Mar, Millennial Nucleus, Ecology and Sustainable Management of
Oceanic Islands (ESMOI) – Faculty of Marine Sciences – Universidad Católica del Norte.

For the first time, a previously unknown seamount located to the northeast of the Motu Motiro Hiva Marine Park was visited, during an epic voyage from Valparaiso to Tahiti on the Japanese research vessel “R/V Mirai”, with participation by scientists from several different countries, from four Chilean universities (Catholic University of the North, Catholic University of Valparaiso, University of Valparaiso and University of Concepcion) and a Councilor of the Sea from Rapa Nui as an observer.

This voyage crossed almost 10,000 km (6,000 miles) from the Atacama trench, passing through the Desventuradas Islands, visiting several seamounts along the Nazca undersea ridge, the islet of Salas y Gómez and the mythical island of Rapa Nui, passing along the back of the Pacific Basin through the Austral Islands, to finally dock after 34 days in the port of Papeete, Tahiti.

Ilustración del Monte “Mana” seamount illustration

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The general objective is to research, analyze and determine the effects that human beings have had on this area – one of the last, least affected frontiers on the planet.  Detailed interest is placed on the intense hydrographic, biochemical and ecological gradients, from the highly productive system that is the Humboldt Current to the Sub-tropical Pacific Gyre.  Due to the diversity of atmospheric circulation and marine currents, all the great ocean basins have at their center an area known as a gyre.  These areas, distant from the great continental land masses, share various characteristics, one of which is low productivity in their waters.  There are very few nutrients to feed the micro-algae which make up the phytoplankton and are the base of the trophic levels on which all other living creatures in the ocean depend.  It’s for this reason that the gyres are considered the deserts of the deep oceans.

However, just as in the deserts there are oases, in this enormous marine area that is marked by low productivity, there are zones in which the animals gather.  The oceanic islands and the seamounts make favorable environments for the presence of a wide range of living creatures with vary particular characteristics.   Given their isolation, the flora and fauna of these areas tend to be endemic, that is to say, to consist of species that are only found in that specific part of the planet.

De Izquierda a derecha / From left to right: “Javier
Sellanes, Melitón Tuki, Ariadna Mechó, María de los
Ángeles Gallardo, Erin Easton, Maximiliano Tapia,
Nicole Morgan & Nicolás Luna,” ESMOI – UCN.

El “RV Mirai”, perteneciente a
JAMSTEC (Agencia Japonesa de Ciencia y
Tecnología del Mar).

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Un langostino recolectado a unos 500 m de
profundidad en un monte del P. Marino Nazca
Desventuradas. Posible especie nueva para la ciencia.

Of the nine stations studied, special mention must be given to a seamount located to the northeast of Motu Motiro Hiva Marine Park, which was visited for the very first time.  Actually, it still doesn’t have an official name; the Chilean members from ESMOI, together with the Councilor of the Sea, proposed the name “Mana”, or “sacred energy” in the Rapanui language.  The peak of the mount is found at 265 m (870 feet) below the sea with its base at more than 3500 m (11,500 feet) on the abyssal plain.  The crew was able to completely map “Mana” to study its topographic features and to film one of its sides from a depth of 1000 m (3280 feet) to its peak, at the same time that they collected samples of incalculable scientific value.

As an example, the majority of the animals observed and collected on the “Mana” seamount correspond to the first registry in the Chilean archive of marine biodiversity, or even species new to science.   Given the volume of samples and data, analysis is going to take some time and the results will be published next year at the earliest.  However, this information will contribute to the protection of the emblematic ecosystems that were visited, especially those of the Nazca-Desventuradas and Motu Motiro Hiva marine parks.

Una desconocida especie de erizo de
mar del monte “Mana”.

Peces conocidos como “nariz de jalea”
(jellynose fishes) recolectado en el monte
“Mana.” Primer reporte en aguas Rapa Nui.

Entrega del Moai / Ceremonial delivery of the Moai “Mana Tapu Ao”

One of the most significant moments during the cruise was the ceremonial presentation of the moai (statue) “Mana Tapu Ao” from the on-board representative of the Rapanui Council of the Sea, Melitón “Heka” Tuki-Pakarati, to the captain of the “R/V Mirai”.  For Melitón Tuki this was a positive and unforgettable experience. “This is the longest trip that I’ve ever made on a ship and it’s something that, especially at my age, is memorable.  Many thanks to the entire crew, from the captain on down to the cooks and the sailors.  Most specially to the scientific crew, who are all well-intentioned people.  I hope that their results contribute, not only for the Rapanui people, but to humanity in general.”

This moai will stay on board, occupying a privileged spot in the main meeting room, as it accompanies the ship and its crew through the oceans of the world.

Melitón (Heka) Tuki
Consejero del Mar de Councilor of the Sea from Rapa Nui

Tres erizos y un pez “nariz de jalea” en la superficie arenosa del monte
Three sea urchins and a “jellynose” fish on the sandy surface of the “Mana” seamount

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