After a few dry days, today was the last dive of the expedition and Scotland has left its mark.
It is the kingdom of the crustaceans: velvet crabs, brown crabs, lobsters...we find a pair of claws guarding the entrance to almost every crack, every hole.
The interesting thing we came across was a velvet crab in the middle of molting. The way crustaceans grow is fascinating: they shed their shell (exoskeleton) as if it were a glove. Little by little its new shell absorbs water and hardens, growing to almost twice its size.
We’re moored in Eemshaven port in the Netherlands and we’re now past the halfway point in the expedition.
Throughout this time, we’ve been quite a few days without having seen land, right in the centre of the North Sea and SCUBA diving in some amazing places such as the Norwegian coast and in Scottish waters. Even though we have been enjoying being out at sea, it’s always nice to harbour and have some time off.
When we dive in tropical seas the water is a transparent, warm blue – ideal conditions. Yet 15 days into the campaign we’ve been diving in cloudy, green and cold water and we’re delighted. We’ve found ecosystems similar to those in warm water in both Scotland and Norway, that is, “if you can call temperatures of 9ºC” warm. This ecosystem in an authentic forest, “the enchanted forest”. A kelp forest (kelpos) several meters high has covered the bottom on every dive up to 20 meters deep, blocking our view of the rock.
It’s our last day in the Vesterhavet area and today we’re 20 miles from the coast of Denmark. It’s a huge sandbank area here in which, even though we’re far from the coast, the depths are often only 10 metres deep.
When we snorkel in a sandbank, we always hope to find some sea rocks where species shelter and take refuge, like an oasis in the middle of a desert. During toda’s dive we didn’t find one single rock; it’s just sand and more sand!
Yesterday we snorkeled in a small bay south of Norway and later spent the night at anchor. In the morning we set out to find some better shelter form the storm and then went on our way to a small fjord.
We only travelled about miles out to sea but it was enough to see that a 50-metre boat like ours can be too big or even too small for the waves on a day like today.
A marine animal must specialise in order to survive at sea, either to feed itself, defend itself from predators, move…for almost everything. Many birds are perfectly adapted to this environment, able to cross or live in the middle of the marine environment without the possibility of resting on something firm. Living conditions are so harsh that if an animal is injured or weak, it will inevitably end up falling prey to the waves.
A 50-day expedition, 4 countries, thousands of miles to sail, 20 people on-board; 11 from Oceana and 9 crew. So far, we’ve been on-board 9 days, sailed in the waters of two different countries and navigated 450 miles. Today is our first dive and we’re 70 miles from the coast, at a depth of 20 metres with 4 divers and 1 sandbank. We’ve seen some rocks full of octocorallia, 1 edible crab crawling around the sand, 2 nudibranchs laying eggs, some small crabs, 3 sturgeons that follow us around everywhere…and many more!
We’ve been at sea for almost two months with this campaign and have sailed for many miles –northern miles- although the truth is that we’ve been quite lucky with the weather and have been able to work practically every day. Slight winds and calm seas rocking us gently. The divers must dance to the rhythm of the currents that move them from side to side. The “heavy seas” remind us that, many miles away from here, the weather is more like winter, either more Cantabrian or more Atlantic, but definitely “more northern.”