A blue-coloured vastness, protagonist of impossible dreams – that’s the ocean. A massive body of salt water with an infinite range of properties: as cold as -2°C at the poles, or as hot as 35°C in tropical waters; profoundly powerful with waves higher than 25 m, or as calm as a small pond. It’s hard to believe that during the last ice age, 14,000 years ago, the sea level was about 120 metres below where it is today.
Today is apparently the first of three days with winds of over 20 knots, at least that’s what the wise weather forecasting programmes tell us. For this reason, we woke up earlier than usual to make the most of the day. At half past five we began what would turn out to be a good day. After planning today’s dive, we headed towards the steep cliffs. Today once again we entered the beautiful caves of the island of Gozo, to document these environments, full of invertebrates and sessile organisms that live out their life cycles in complete darkness.
The weeks are going by and each day we are experiencing something new or learning something new, making this expedition a very rewarding experience indeed. We’ve managed to swim at the same pace as jellyfish, see the way rays “fly” and witness the hatching of cuttlefish eggs. I reassure myself again that these waters, at 1,500m depth, hold a high degree of biodiversity. These waters are home to over 12,000 animal species and to over 1,300 varieties of microalgae, of which 22% are endemic.
I’m starting my diary entry sitting on the bow of the Ranger, looking towards the horizon, ten miles from the coast of Gozo, with the ROV in 500-metre-deep water. It’s a little break from spending hours labeling all the hundreds of videos we’ve made over the last few days. I still have such vivid memories of the dive we did yesterday – one of the most beautiful dives out of the many I’ve done in this sea. I feel like an explorer who’s out looking for biological treasures hidden between grottos and caves in the Mediterranean.
At 6.45am the alarm goes off and a new day of researching the depths of the ocean floors where no sun light gets to. It’s a universe full of creatures that adapt to life at such depths.
At around 300ms down, the ROV manages to captures fantastic images of a bed of sub-fossil brachiopods. Little did we expect that, later on, we’d have some bad luck with the ROV cable when it got damaged after getting stuck in one of the Ranger’s propellers.
As we set sail out on our new expedition today, those fond, vivid memories from last year’s expedition came floating back to us all on board. The weather was on our side too – just the right combination of a light breeze, pleasant temperature and a 10-metre visibility which is characteristic of the waters we’re currently in.
The expedition is reaching its end, and today was the day in which we were going to present the campaign through a press wheel to Danish and Swedish mass media. Different media, including the main Swedish television chain have been interested in getting to know our work in this area of the Baltic Sea. Lasse Gustavson, the Ocean director in Europe, together with Mike Palmgren, with expert knowledge of these waters and great collaborator in this expedition, were those in charge of presenting this awaited event.
Today, we started the day knowing that the weather conditions would neither let us navigate nor work at our designated sites along the way. It was best to stay on land, due to the strong wind and the state of the sea. While the ROV team took advantage of the opportunity to fix problems that had occurred in previous days, the underwater photographer and I spent the day catching up on the images we have documented during the week.
As the beautiful song of Karina (Spanish singer) says, “sometimes it´s good to look back” and this time, I am overcome by the desire of looking back and go through the many bottoms we have documented, the more than one hundred dives, about 4,000 nautical miles sailed and the one-of-a-kind moments when we found the weirdest creatures that seemed to come from Jules Verne´s most adventurous novel.
Five weeks ago we began this at-sea campaign. Days pass by, immersed deep in the environments of the continental shelf and the dark slopes surrounding the islands of Malta. For several months, the graphic information obtained will be carefully analyzed to produce a detailed report. This is how Oceana contributes – providing important data that will later help to protect at least 10% of Malta´s coastal and marine areas by 2020.