Red Sea Reef Exploration

Blue Ventures recently took part in a landmark marine research expedition in the southern Red Sea. Throughout April, an international coral reef research team based on board the Golden Shadow, a research vessel operated by the Living Oceans Foundation, explored the Farasan Banks, an extensive reef system that had not been scientifically surveyed since Jacques Cousteau visited the area in the 1950s. Captain Coutesau’s 1953 book, “The Living Sea”, describes the remote banks as the wildest of all reef complexes in the Red Sea.

golden shadow

The expedition’s aim was to characterise the health of this vast and largely unknown reef system, which extends for approximately 450 kilometres from north to south and 50 kilometres from east to west, up to 100km off the southern Saudi Arabian coast. Blue Ventures Research Director, Alasdair Harris, joined the team conducting benthic coral reef assessments, with emphasis on the diversity, abundance and size structure of reef building corals. Al’s work built on previous surveys carried out by the Living Oceans Foundation expeditions at sites further north in the Red Sea.

Blue Ventures Scientific Advisor, Dr. Sam Purkis, also took part in this groundbreaking research voyage, leading ground-truthing and habitat characterisation efforts. The Farasan banks exhibit truly spectacular structural formations, consisting of complex networks of submerged reef pinnacles often plunging vertically to abyssal depths.

farasan banks

Their structure is the result of complex geomorphological processes operating over geological time. Sam’s work employed the use of acoustic sediment profiling techniques to begin to characterise the underlying reef structure and physical processes controlling the formation of these unique reefs.

More information about the expedition can be found at

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