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September 15-16, 2011
aboard the R/V MANTA


R/V Manta crew:

Captain Darrell Walker
Captain Mike Shetler
Tina Thompson
Marc Weekley

Sanctuary research team:

Ryan Eckert
John Embesi
Michelle Johnston
G.P. Schmahl


The primary purpose of this trip was to survey and document the condition of each mooring buoy system within the sanctuary, search for invasive lionfish and collect algae for identification. This cruise was funded by the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation.

Diagram of a sanctuary mooring buoy assembly
Diagram of mooring buoy assembly used in Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. Credit: FGBNMS/Eckert

Geyer Bank

Prior to the inspection of the mooring U-bolts, buoys and downlines in the sanctuary, the research team conducted a survey dive at Geyer Bank.  

A diver swimming above a large patch of algae growing on the seafloor
G.P. Schmahl documenting the algal cover at Geyer Bank. White patches on the right are areas of bleached fire coral. Photo: FGBNMS/Eckert

Algae that is currently dominating the peak was collected. The algae was sent to Dr. Suzanne Fredericq at the University of Louisiana for identification. 

Large field of sargassum attached to the seafloor with small fish schooling above.
Sargassum growing at Geyer Bank. Photo: FGBNMS/Eckert

Other observations included areas of bleaching fire coral and a large Manta ray. No lionfish were observed at Geyer Bank.

Looking up at a manta ray swimming in blue water
A large manta glides over Geyer Bank.
Photo: FGBNMS/Eckert

Mooring Buoy Inspections

Inspections of the mooring systems at East Flower Garden Bank (including a U-bolt on the North Reef), West Flower Garden Bank and Stetson Bank were completed by staff divers.

Section of coral reef covered in branching yellow corals with occasional purple rope-shaped sponges sticking out.  Two divers are barely visible floating above the reef in the distance.
Field of yellow pencil coral (Madracis sp.) at East Flower Garden Bank's North Reef. Photo: FGBNMS/Embesi

Mooring U-bolts, down lines, buoys, and pennant lines were inspected from top to bottom, and damaged components were replaced, as needed.

Close-up of a u-bolt anchored into the reef with a buoy line attached.
A mooring u-bolt at East Flower Garden Bank shows
signs of wear.
Photo: FGBNMS/Embesi

All of the mooring systems were photographed for documentation purposes. Future mooring buoy maintenance cruises will be planned based on information collected during this cruise.

Scuba diver taking a photograph of an underwater mooring attachment.
G.P. Schmahl surveys and photographs a mooring u-bolt at East Flower Garen Bank. Photo: FGBNMS/Embesi

Debris Removal

Several pieces of marine debris were picked up at Stetson Bank. The weather conditions were just right and we had just enough time left over to conduct the lifts. Collected items included a large steel stabilizer, as well as various pipes and chains. This and other debris has littered Stetson Bank for some time.


Two researchers pose with large, rusting steel stabilizer on the back deck of a boat.
Researchers Michelle Johnston and John Embesi pose
with a large, steel stabilizer removed from Stetson Bank.

Photo: FGBNMS/Schmahl

As far as we know, most, if not all, debris has been removed from Stetson Bank in the past few years.


Water temperature was recorded as 85F (29.4C) on the surface and at depth for Geyer, East Flower Garden, and West Flower Garden Banks. The current was also running fairly strong at all three locations.

Stetson Bank was only slightly cooler at depth, 84F (28.8C), with a mild current.

Seas ran from 1-4 feet (.3-1.2 m) throughout the trip.

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There was very little benthic cover on the 60’ peak, but was quite lush benthic cover at the 80’ peak – dominated by sponges.

weather report observations cool stuff get wet

Orange, branching gorgonian (soft coral) anchored in a bed of sponges and other sea life.
National Marine Sanctuary logo - a stylized whale tail above waves