, Volume 677, Issue 1, pp 157–168 | Cite as

Search for Bermuda’s deep water caves

  • Thomas M. Iliffe
  • Rikk Kvitek
  • Steve Blasco
  • Katie Blasco
  • Robert Covill


The mid-Atlantic islands of Bermuda harbor one of the richest and most diverse anchialine communities known from anywhere on Earth. However, all known anchialine caves in Bermuda (maximum depth—26 m) were dry during the last glacial period extending from approximately 9,000 to 115,000 years ago when glacial sea levels were as much as 127 m lower. Since it is highly unlikely that Bermuda’s endemic cave species evolved since the caves were flooded by sea level rise, alternate deeper habitats must have existed to shelter anchiane fauna for prolonged periods of lower sea level during the Pleistocene. In order to systematically search for such now deep water cave habitats, high-resolution multibeam sonar and remotely operated vehicles were used to map and explore the seafloor off Bermuda in 60–200 m depths along the outer shelf break edge of the submarine escarpment surrounding the Bermuda Platform and an adjacent seamount. Specific goals were to discover deep water cave and/or crevicular habitats and to characterize the nature, geological stratification and composition, and sea level history of the platform margin, in particular focusing on features directly relating to Pleistocene low sea stand events. During this sea floor survey, clearly defined paleo-shoreline features generated by wave and current erosion were found to encircle the Bermuda seamount and Challenger Bank at 60 and 120 m depths.


Anchialine caves Seafloor mapping Pleistocene Sea level 



This research was funded by a Grant from the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration to T. Iliffe. Multibeam mapping and ROV investigations were carried out by the Seafloor Mapping Lab (SFML) at California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB). Ship time on the R.V. Endurance was provided through the Bermuda Zoological Society (BZS) and the Bermuda Aquarium, Museum and Zoo (BAMZ). The authors thank Texas A&M graduate student Dayla Morrison and Seafloor Mapping Lab students and staff Pat Iampietro (Chief Hydrographer & Technician), Mary Young (UCSC graduate student & SFML hydrographer), Katie Glitz (recent CSUMB graduate and SFML hydrographer), Todd Hallenbeck (CSUMB grad student), Krystle Gomez (CSUMB grad student) and Alexis Hall (CSUMB undergrad student) for assistance with the multibeam and ROV surveys. Special appreciation is extended to Tim Hasselbring (captain of the R/V Endurance), Gil Nolan (local cave diver and member of BZS), Ian Walker (curator for BAMZ), Robbie Smith (curator for BAMZ), Wolfgang Sterrer (curator for BAMZ), Nic Hutchings (alternate captain of the R/V Endurance), Thadeus Murdock (curator for BAMZ), Philippe Rouja (Bermuda Department of Conservation Services), Wendy Tucker (Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute), and Graham Maddox (Triangle Diving), all of whom played important roles in this research. This article is publication No. 185 of the Bermuda Biodiversity Project (BBP), Bermuda Aquarium, Natural History Museum and Zoo.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas M. Iliffe
    • 1
  • Rikk Kvitek
    • 2
  • Steve Blasco
    • 3
  • Katie Blasco
    • 3
  • Robert Covill
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Marine BiologyTexas A&M University at GalvestonGalvestonUSA
  2. 2.Seafloor Mapping LabCalifornia State University, Monterey BaySeasideUSA
  3. 3.Geological Survey of Canada (Atlantic)DartmouthCanada
  4. 4.Tekmap ConsultingFall RiverCanada

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