The Continental Shelf west of Point Reyes

West of Point Reyes

The undersea topography of parts of the Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary

Looking west from the Point Reyes Lighthouse you see the Pacific Ocean—waves and, maybe, whales. The map at the lighthouse visitor center (the YOU ARE HERE point in the map) reveals a diversity of shelfscape features including banks, rocks and shoals. The Cordell Bank was a real island over 15,000 years ago when the sea level was more than 300 feet below the current level. Today, it is a seamount teeming with marine life above its summit. A multitude of interesting invertebrate species including corals and sponges are found at Cordell Bank, Rittenburg Bank and nearby seafloor spots. The Fanny Shoals are underwater islands of the Farallones—with Noonday Rock “breaking through the surface” at low tide. Submarine canyons such as Bodega Canyon (20 km long and over 1600 m deep) cut into the Continental Slope. This shelf-edge canyon world remains largely unexplored.
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Point Reyes