Ecology of an Underwater Island
Robert W. Schmieder

Published 1991 by Cordell Expeditions
144 pp, 55 illus., 98 color plates
7x10", perfect bound
ISBN 0-9626013-0-6
Regular edition: $20 + postage
Postage: $3 US, $15 foreign airmail)
This book is a case study: a summary of what we know about the ecology of a rocky bank 100 km northwest of San Francisco. Cordell Bank is well-described as an Underwater Island, by which we mean a limited area within which conditions are favorable for supporting a rich and vigorous biological community, but surrounded by a barrier that causes the community to live in relative isolation.
Until very recently, Cordell Bank was practically unknown even to the scientific community. Partly as a result of a recent series of expeditions and partly as a result of assembling existing information, we now know enough about the Bank to realize that its lushness results from the overlap of several favorable oceanic conditions. Even a brief study of this site would convince one that it represents an extraordinary resource for conservation and research. Recognizing this, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has established Cordell Bank as a National Marine Sanctuary, which includes not only the Bank itself but also the surrounding waters.
Most of what we know about the environment at Cordell Bank resulted from a series of exploratory expeditions led by the author and colleagues. From those expeditions, we were able to make an initial description of the community, and take the first steps toward understanding what controls it. This book summarizes the physical factors that appear important to the biotic community living on Cordell Bank, and how the community interacts with itself and its surroundings-the Ecology of an Underwater Island. To the extent that Cordell Bank is a prototypical hard-rock, shallow-water bank, these observations should have relevance to many other similar sites.
This is a story about relationships and limitations in a specialized oceanic habitat, the shallow subtidal rocky bank. Thus, we expect to see many of these same relationships and limitations on rocky banks off New England, Mexico, South America, in the South Pacific, and in the Indian Ocean. Not everything everywhere will be the same, of course, but what we have learned of Cordell Bank will help us understand what we see at these other places.
"I spent a Saturday morning next to a warm fireplace reading the book and remembering the wonderful years I spent living and diving in California. This kind of effort to make the public more aware of the underwater world so close to our shores is extremely important. The continued creation of national marine sanctuaries like Cordell Bank must move ahead at a quickened pace, and Ecology of an Underwater Island helps further that cause."
--Robert D. Ballard
--Director, Center for Marine Exploration, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
"Ecology of an Underwater Island is a charming, well-organized, beautifully illustrated, and readable account of the findings of a scientific diving expedition to Cordell Bank, a hidden shoal not far from San Francisco. It is most important that scientists make a special effort to explain to the public in all ways they can what they are doing, why they are doing it, and what they have learned. This book does so concisely and puts Cordell Bank in proper perspective relative to the Pacific Ocean, plate theory, and biological ranges."
--Willard Bascom
--Oceanographer and Underwater Archaeologist
"It is an extraordinary guide to an extraordinary place, and should inspire divers-and non-divers-with a desire to go see for themselves, and to take care of the place."
--Sylvia Earle
--Ocean Explorer, Author, Former Chief Scientist NOAA
"The ten-year exploration of Cordell Bank by Robert Schmieder and the volunteer divers of Cordell Expeditions opened up a whole new world for those interested in our vital coastal marine resources. The knowledge acquired by this enthusiastic group led to the establishement of the Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary. Indeed, the exploits of this group of explorer-divers rivals those of well-known historical adventurers of the past."
--Dan Gotshall
--Author and Publisher, Sea Challengers
"Ecology of an Underwater Island is a careful and thorough investigation of a unique submerged island. It displays great determination and devotion to scientific principles. Bob Schmieder and his colleagues are to be congratulated on this very interesting research project."
--Sir Edmund Hillary
--Explorer and Humanitarian
"The book affirms my belief that the Bay Area is rich in environmental wonders. The incredible photos, intriguing drawings, and most importantly, detailed writing, brought me below the surface of the Pacific to an otherwise unimaginable underwater marvel. This comprehensive and fascinating study leaves me with just one question: Where's my scuba tank?"
--Pete Stark
--United States Congressman
"Bob Schmieder tells an intriguing story of this underwater "island," and shows how a rich living system is patterned by water movement, light penetration, depth, competition for space, and more. The author calls Cordell Bank a paradise. After reading this book I felt I had been there and he was right. There is abundant color, and beauty at all sizes, from hydrocorals and feathery anemones, down to marvellous microscopic details in small, rare diatoms."
--Frank H. Talbot
--Director, National Museum of Natural History
"Ecology of an Underwater Island is an exciting book, beautifully illustrated and a demonstration that "lost worlds," filled with unstudied life, still lie close at hand."
--E. O. Wilson
--Baird Professor of Science, Harvard University
To obtain this book, please contact:

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Walnut Creek, CA 94596
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