Search for Bermuda’s deep water caves
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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.