Diving Princess Alice seamount in the Azores – This large submerged seamount is possibly the most famous dive site in the whole of the Azores archipelago. It is renowned because of its remote location, its significant depth, the challenging conditions and the potential encounters that can happen there. It’s quite a place!
Diving Princess Alice Seamount: What Is It?
The area was discovered during an exploration of the Azores archipelago in 1896 led by Prince Albert of Monaco.
What was discovered is a huge area of underwater mountains and seamounts, surrounded by extremely deep water. In total the area covers almost 100 km². It was an important discovery because of the area’s tremendous biodiversity and potential for fishing.
Prince Albert was an accomplished oceanographer and explorer who founded what would eventually become the famous Oceanographic Museum of Monaco.
He owned a series of four increasingly impressive research yachts. The second of which was the Princess Alice.
The yacht was named after his American wife Marie Alice Heine and Prince Albert was on-board when the discovery was made – hence the name!
Diving Princess Alice Seamount: Where Is It?
The overall area of Princess Alice Bank (the full name…) is huge, but virtually all of it is far too deep to dive. Except for the seamount – the tip of which is at 35m.
Physically the seamount is located about 90 km southwest of Pico Island. Which means a journey of around 2.5 to 3 hours each way in the open ocean.
Good conditions are obviously required to make the trip safely!
It’s a really long long day that starts just after dawn. And, by the time you get back in the late afternoon, you may well be thinking about an appointment with the local chiropractor…
Because of its remote location, the surrounding depths and the strong currents diving Princess Alice seamount requires following a very specific technique.
The dive boats moor to the descent lines secured to the tip of the seamount.
The buoy on the descent line is a clear indicator of the surface currents. And your immediate task upon entering the water is to get to that buoy and prepare for your descent down the line.
The instructions for the descent are very specific – do not let go or leave the line.
To do otherwise would be foolish at best and extremely dangerous at worst. The basic point is that you are very much “in the blue”. Literally in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean, in deep water that is swept by really strong currents…
The descent line is your way back to the surface and your boat. It means that you can do that ascent in a safe and controlled manner! To say that diving Princess Alice seamount is adventurous diving would be somewhat of an understatement!
Diving Princess Alice Seamount: In the Water
A typical dive on Princess Alice Seamount will involve getting down that descent line to the peak of the seamount.
The shallowest point is at 35m and the immediate area around it is about 40m. Then it quickly drops in to the depths.
Your time there is limited, your brain will be affected by nitrogen and there may not be that much to see…
The best part of diving Princess Alice seamount is often on the line as you make your ascent. The nitrogen is dissipating and you will be feeling much more comfortable and able to enjoy the show! Because the open water pelagics come and strut their stuff.
Manta and mobula rays are commonly sighted at Princess Alice. But many other large creatures like tuna, barracuda and marlin often put in an appearance!