Zegrahm DeepSea Voyages to explore underwater volcanoes

SEATTLE -- For the first time, nonscientists will have the opportunity to travel in deep-diving submersibles, or minisubmarines, to the underwater volcanoes and hydrothermal vents in the mid-Atlantic Ocean near the Azores archipelago.

sub mission The trips are offered by Zegrahm DeepSea Voyages in Seattle, a division of 9-year-old Zegrahm Expeditions, a firm specializing in expeditionary cruises and tours to remote destinations such as Antarctica, the South Pacific and the Arctic.

The programs, dubbed Undersea Volcanoes of the Azores, are led by industry experts and scientists such as explorer, Dr. Alfred McLaren, and oceanographer and retired U.S. Navy captain, Dr. Don Walsh.

Participants will be able to explore the so-called "rainbow vents," a field of deep-sea geysers located in the mid-Atlantic Ocean 280 miles southwest of the Azores archipelago.

Bathed by the warm gulf current, this Atlantic Ocean paradise is home to 23 species of dolphins and whales, including the sperm whale, as well as many species of birds.

The 13-day trips begin with a visit to three islands -- Sao Miguel, Pico and Faial -- where travelers explore a volcano and crater lakes, visit a whale museum and sample local wines and cuisine.

They then board the Akademik Keldysh, described as one of the largest high-tech deep-diving research ships in the world.

The Keldysh also houses the MIR I and MIR II submersibles, minisubmarines capable of carrying two passengers and a pilot to depths of up to 20,000 feet below sea level.

The 25-foot-long, $25 million MIR submersibles have completed more than 400 deep-ocean dives, according to Zegrahm.

The rainbow vents, located 7,875 feet below the ocean surface, billow like smokestacks, blasting minerals several feet up into the Atlantic. Their waterjets range from clear to coal-black.

Beyond the geological significance of the Rainbow Vents, the area surrounding them is teeming with marine life in a harsh environment ranging from numbing cold to blistering hot, often just a few feet apart.

The trip costs $18,500 per person, including hotel accommodations in the Azores and aboard the Akademik Keldysh, dives to the rainbow vents, lectures and meals.

Travel to and from Ponta Delgada in the Azores is extra.

Available departures are Oct. 2 and 9.

Zegrahm DeepSea Voyages. Phone: (888) 772-2366 or (206) 285-3743. Fax: (206) 285-7390. Web: www.deepseavoyages.com

Firm markets trips to Indian Ocean

SEATTLE -- Zegrahm Expeditions is marketing 18-day sailing trips to the Indian Ocean aboard the Druzhba, a 400-foot-long sailing ship.

The Druzhba features more than 30,000 feet of sails, which a Ukrainian crew (including 30 naval cadets) set and hoist using pure muscle power.

Passengers may join in, if they wish, or learn the rudiments of navigation on the Druzhba's bridge.

A team of naturalists and lecturers accompanies passengers ashore each day to point out and interpret the region's myriad wildlife.

Expeditions are scheduled for March 3 to 20 and March 16 to April 2, starting in Antananarivo, Madagascar.

Prices start at $6,890 per person, including meals, excursions and lectures. Air fare is extra.

Madagascar is best known for its lemurs, the most ancient of living primates ranging in size from a small mouse to a child.

Passengers will visit Nosy Mangabe, an island set aside as a lemur reserve.

The March 16 itinerary includes a visit to the Seychelles' Assumption Island.

Jacques Cousteau's documentary, "The Silent World," was filmed in the clear waters surrounding Assumption.

Passengers will have a full day's visit at Aldabra, the largest raised atoll in the world and home to more than 150,000 giant Indian Ocean tortoises.

Zegrahm Expeditions. Phone: (800) 628-8787 or (206) 285-4000. Fax: (206) 285-5037. Web: www.zeco.com

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