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Blog Posts by: Ricardo Aguilar

Today has been an exciting day.

We had a good scare. The little seamount we went to sample turned out to be the most complicated one of all. The lines, nets, ropes and other fishing tackle abandoned here have transformed this seamount into a spider web. And to top it all off, the robot got tangled in a longline at 170 meters depth.

After a lot of hard work, and a good measure of luck, we were able to haul the equipment onboard. It was, however, covered in lines, buoys and hooks. Now we have to verify that nothing has been damaged.

We continue diving in Almeria in the area of Seco de los Olivos. We have not seen any cetaceans in this area this year, quite the contrary to last year, and we have been here two days with calm seas and excellent visibility. In general, the sightings during the last month and a half can be counted with one hand. We’ve almost seen more swordfish jumping out of the water than dolphins. Each year the situation gets worse. And not many turtles, either.

Once in Almeria, we’ve made the port of Almerimar our base for operations in order to work in Seco de los Olivos between Punta Entinas and Punta Elena.

On the first day, we head out to Seco to see one of the small elevations there are towards the east and to look around the top of the main seamount in the afternoon.

The summit of the small elevation east of Seco is at approximately 90 meters. From there, an area of rockfalls extends to 130 meters and then we reach the sandy sea floors.

Today we were going to take a look at the seamounts that appear in the charts approximately 20 miles east of Cabo de Gata. According to the charts we have, the three summits are between 180-2000 meters depth and are located atop a small platform at 900 meters, from here they fall to over 2,000 meters.

On our way to Cartagena to get supplies, do some general cleaning and take care of other things, we stop for a few hours in the island of Las Palomas to take another look at the area.

The divers will explore the area near the seamount located south of the small island while the ROV will work in the east.

This area is invaded by exotic species, such as the red algae Lophocladia lallemandi and Asparagopsis spp., and the colonial coral Oculina patagonica.

We're now back in Cabo de Palos and we’re going to continue our dives in Islas Hormigas.

Within the Reserve, the divers are finding a large variety of fish, including barracuda (Sphyraena viridensis) and the three species of grouper (Epinephelus marginatus, Epinephelus costae and Mycteroperca rubra). Today, some of the divers told us they saw manta rays (Mobula mobular) in this area.

Today we are really sweating. It’s the hottest day since we began the expedition. But at least the sea is calm and this makes our work much easier.

We continue to work with the ROV in the Seco de Palos. We find remnants of fishing tackle every 20 meters; lines, hooks, nets, etc.

We’re taking advantage of the day and that’s why we woke up even earlier today, in order to get to Cabo de Palo early and make some crew changes.

After three dives at between 100 and 180 meters, now it's time to study the tapes patiently and identify the species.

Today we must wake up a bit earlier. It will take us more than three hours to reach our destination. As soon as we set sail, we begin seeing the trawlers carrying out their activities. We see them all over for a long time, until the sea floors become deeper, reaching 700-800 meters depth.

The ocean is quite calm and there is barely any wind; the perfect conditions for turtle sighting. The first three appear in front of us and we only have to turn a little to see them up close.

Early in the morning we leave Cartagena and set sail towards Cabo de Palos; we will meet with the marine reserve guards there to comment on our plans. The paperwork is quick and we’re wailing towards Bajo de Fuera in no time. The top is located at only 4 meters depth and the northern slope plunges to 35-45 meters depth, while the southern slope plunges to greater depths.

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