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Blog Posts by: Helena Álvarez

The Canary Islands and their adjacent seamounts hold the most diverse elasmobranchs (sharks and rays) community of the whole European territory, with up to 79 species identified. Therefore, these islands are one of the main tourist destinations in the European Union being sharks and rays´ diving and sightings the main attraction.

We set off early in the morning towards the Baja de Anacon harbor outside the Marine Reserve. It was a little earlier than usual because La Restinga was holding a swimming competition "The Voyage of las Calmas" and 400 swimmers would be taking the area.

Back at sea, we start the second phase of the expedition: The Sahara Mountains. We spent the day at the Bimbache Mountain (also known as Kiel), where we made ​​two dives at its peak, at around -850 m. This mountain reaches 2,700 m of maximum height and has a dorsal morphology of NS orientation.

After a well spent day off, today we kept going with our campaign. First time in the morning before sailing, we hold some interviews with local media, and had the visit of Tamia Brito, who is the Restinga- Mar de las Calmas Marine Reserve of Fishing Interest coordinator. The day went by quietly with some loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta) and birds such as the Great skua (Stercorarios skua) sightings. In days like these we take advantage for reviewing videos, analyze samples and try to do as much identification work as possible.

The short-finned pilot whale (Globicephala macrorhynchus) finds its northern limit of distribution in the Canary Islands. This is one of the few places where its habitat overlaps with that of its close relative, the long-finned pilot whale (Globicephala melas). They are social animals that travel in pods, looking for food and warm temperate waters without specific migration routes. Adults are about 6.5 meters in length and prefer the continental shelf waters and deep canyons.

We woke up in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, where we made a stop to stock and fix some problems with our satellite communications. We were quick as we were really looking forward to get to El Hierro and discover its depths. Still, we had to stay a whole day, which we took in advantage by trying some local food and walking around the city center.

The glass sponges or hexactinellids are quite impressive. They consist of siliceous spicules, which draw many different geometric shapes, creating some of the most beautiful and unknown creatures on Earth. From the nearly 500 documented species a set of ten can be observed in the valley between the two peaks of the Triton seamount (around 900 meters deep). Our guide for Canary Islands sponges only includes four species for this area, in spite of  that, we suspect that some of the sponges observed have not been documented yet. Euplectella sp.