Sunday, 15 May 2011

Another hard day of dolphins and pilot whales...

First I should mention that blogger was playing up yesterday, so here's a quick run down of events on 14/05/2011:

It started with a ROV transect in the eastern fields of Darwin Mounds, a wibbly wiggly one for 4hours, with lots of xenophyophores (see photo below) which are giant single celled organisms who roam the seabed looking like footballs of sand, licking up the organic detritus that settles on the sea floor; and patches of dead coral. Nothing much esle. So I'm chucking in a little trio of pictures from the previous ROV dive to entertain you with the octopus, below.

This was followed by a piston core again, and then a long wait as we were supposedly off to pick up the Autosub. However upon arrival at the autosub site, the machine was not at the seafloor where we expected it, it was stranded mid-water column with the inability to dive. This puzzled everyone and there was much excitement that there was the possibility it was tangled in a longline (set fishing lines which can be kilometers long) and talk of the ROV having to go and look for it and cut it free. This all ended up being too much fuss as it surfaced fine, however the reason for the midwater tantrum is still unclear and hopefully the next time its in the water (tonight) it'll be right as rain again.

One other thing of note happened yesterday- I learned of the birth of one Noah Auburn, born on friday 13th to our old friends Lee and Sarah in Plymouth. I am extatic for them and am eager to meet the wee guy when I get home. So exciting!

Ok on to today.

Today has been non-stop since the word go. I arrived to the ROV sitting on the bottom and just about to start it's 5hour transect, so I immediately plugged into my digital logging role, swapping with a colleague half way through to sit in the "ROV shack" and keep a written log whilst clicking a mouse to activate the ROV camera every 30seconds throughout the transect.
I enjoyed this immensely, particularly as there was actual live coral to bee seen on this dive, one clump unfortunately wrapped in fishing net, but many looking healthy. However this is an area where the reef is quite patchy so the sight was not nearly as spectacular as can be seen in the Rockall bank cliff edges where we will be heading next week so watch this space for some of those pictures (and I'll try to get ahold of some of these ones once they've been processed- the ROV guys had been up for 30hours when they went to bed at the end of their transect, so we'll forgive them for not having sorted out pictures immediately!).

Incidentally this ROV transect was interrupted by a visit from a pod of pilot whales at about 5am. I was left to my logging as the lab emptied out onto the deck with the cameras while I cursed them. Then a kind sole came back in and relieved me so that I could catch a few snaps too before they disappeared.

Just after the ROV landed back on deck we had our second cetacean sighting of the day- a pod of white sided dolphins passed by, and while I was snapping away, unfortunately in my haste I had flicked the manual switch on my camera which left every photo over exposed with a black blob where a dolphin should be.

Back to work and it was piston coring time. This time we were attempting to slice through a mound and see what it's mad of. However targetting a 50m area (however big that sounds) by dangling a tube on a wire from a ship 1km above is not very easy, and while there were a couple of tiny fragments of coral in the core, it was clear we had missed the mound, so they are trying this again later.

One new job today- the box core! Some marine biologists at Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh could no longer make it on this cruise but charged us with gathering a few samples for them. They are looking for preserved specimens of live coral samples and their associated wildlife, so the box core does what it sounds like, its a square 50cm sq that is dropped on the seafloor, with a door shutting beneath it essentially bringing up a neatly boxed portion of the seabed with anything living on top of it still pretty much intact.

Awaiting the arrival of the box core from the seabed was thankfully made less boring by the reappearance of pilot whales and the white sided dolphins all at once. The pilot whales came right up close while the dolphins did acrobatics in the background, clearly feeding on a ball of fish as gannets dived around them.

So as you'd expect I have a couple of pictures for you. And with these I bid you adieu as it is way past my bed time (we had a "watch meeting" in the BAR at 7, which was actually just a have a glass of wine and wind down social. Consequentially it is already 9pm!)

P.S. I have been thinking of Luke and his parents and my parents today who have all been having lunch together without me - it's a wierd thought as I bob around with whales and muddy cores that life continues in a much more normal fashion a few hundred miles away.A box core coming out of the water, you can see that in the middle, there is just a box!Brian Bett, one of the biologists on board, holding a xenophyophore that came up in the box core. It's pretty big for a single celled organism, no?
The octopus from the first ROV transect. Isn't it a beaut!
A pilot whale having a little look around (actually there are 2 in this picture)

Mother and baby pilot whales
A bit of a fluke (tail) kick.
A bemused fulmar with a pilot whale passing by.In the distance the white sided dolphins were jumping about while gannets circled and dived alongside. Classic sign of a shoal of fish which have been herded to the surface by the pod of dolphins to make them easier to catch (this kind of shoal of fish is called a bait ball, purely for the amount of predatory attention it attracts).

1 comment:

  1. great shots bex!!
    and yaaay! congrats to lee and sarah and harri and noah! x