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Blog Posts by: Ricardo Aguilar

Today we have gone from being in a rocky area with the most densely-covered seafloor we have ever seen in all over dives to going on to a dive in a sandy seabed with hardly any signs of life. Yet we always find something to surprise us – a meat-eating sponge here, a new echinoderm there and a fish that we didn´t expect at all to see in these waters.

Today we were amazed by the huge eyes of a small group of amphipods that came inside a sponge we collected. Our eyes looked pretty much like those of the amphipods, being wide open with amazement as we found so much life in the sampled bottoms along with many vulnerable ecosystems and species of interest. The dives are not disappointing us. On board, we review the tapes, photograph the samples and start discussions on the identification of the observed species, and on their distribution in the Mediterranean or even across the Atlantic.

Yet another day the sea is respecting us and showing us a small bit of calm. Today we went to an area just a little northward of the place we analyzed yesterday. We sampled sea bottoms with a depth of between 25 and 35 meters at different distances from the coast, from 5 to 8 miles. First we did some transects with the ROV and then we took some samples with a van Veen dredger.

Many of you will not remember, or were not born yet, but years ago, some of us worked hard on a document called "La Carta de Cedeira." This text requested the banning of bottom trawling, the creation of marine reserves and support for sustainable fisheries. This would not have been significant if it weren’t for the fact that the document was signed by most of the fleets operating in the Cantabrian and Galician Atlantic.

Although the weather predictions said we were going to have three bad days due to strong winds, this morning is totally calm. We decide to head towards Salvora again and dive on the south side of the island, off a rock known as “piedra Pegar”.

We spot a group of common dolphins on the way (Delphinus delphis), as well as some yellow-legged gulls (Larus cachinnans) and gannets (Sula bassana) that seem to be having a fish feast as they dive head-on into the water.

We woke to strong winds coming from the northeast, but we attempted to go out anyway to verify if the seas were calmer outside the estuary. As we were heading towards Salvora, we notice that the conditions are good inside the estuary, in case we can’t go out to sea. Luckily, the island affords some protection so the seas are quite calm and we are able to get some work done.

We begin the last day with calm seas and practically no wind. We are east of Columbretes at seven in the morning, profiling the canyon that is located there with the sonar. The surface is at approximately 120 meters depth, falling to 600-700 meters from there, and the walls are almost vertical in some parts.

After almost three days of storms, including almost 20 hours of jumps and jolts during the first day and at dock the other two days, we can set sail at last. The weather is not as good as the report said it would be, but it will get better as the day passes.

After a few days in Formentera to prepare to ROV for filming the seamounts of the channel of Mallorca, we start work once again. Yesterday, we took advantage and the divers were able to get some images of groupers (Epinephelus marginatus), striped groupers (Epinephelus costae), mottled groupers (Mycteroperca rubra), barracudas (Sphyrna viridensis) and other medium and large-sized fish.

We reach Cabrera on the 15th in the afternoon in order to continue sampling the eastern part of the National Park. Ten minutes after the robot was in the water, we saw some fog beginning to form on the camera lens, which is bad news; water was somehow getting inside. We decide to suspend the dive and lift the ROV out of the water. There must be a broken seal or connection.

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