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Blog Posts by: Ricardo Aguilar

The day does not start off well. The weather forecast is calling for force 3 and 4 winds from the southeast and southwest, but we also have a force 7 and 8 windstorm coming from the northeast. Obviously, we cannot continue our work and we must leave the area in search of shelter. We set sail toward Cabrera, but the direction of the wind indicates that the port there will not be comfortable either. So, we continue sailing in search of a sheltered cove on the southern coast of Mallorca.

After verifying the bathymetry of the area at night, we are ready to submerge the robot early the next morning. This area has a depth of 110 meters and, although the weather is still not as good as we would like, the conditions are not all that bad to begin working.

The weather has not improved but we will continue our efforts. We will attempt to descend along the side of the submarine mountain, Auxias Marc. The work is not easy to carry out due to the strong currents, the swells and the wind, but after much hard work, we can finally discern the sea bottom. Again, we thought the day would be wasted, but as the hours go by, the weather conditions improve and the sea becomes calm; so we are able to continue our work more comfortably. Again we spot an extensive maerl bed.

We are between the islands of Conejeras and Bledas. We would like to take samples here while the weather gets better in the east. Just when we are about to begin to submerge the ROV, the wind suddenly changes and begins to blow from the west, making our shelter useless, so we must leave this area. Once again, we set sail toward the east coast of Formentera, where it seems the weather is rapidly improving.

Although the weather is not favourable, we decided to head toward Formentera in order to get a little closer to the marine mountains we want to document. The wind picks up and we must change our course and take refuge on the west coast of Ibiza. It is a rough night until we are able to find shelter.

We spent the day at port loading supplies on board and waiting for new crew members who will join us on this last part of the journey. We heard that the people from CRAM had also arrived in Palma with their sailboat, the "Vell Mari," so we went over to say hello and ended up have dinner with them, exchanging points of view and telling each other about the work we are carrying out in the Mediterranean. We were happy to spend some time with other colleagues.

We wake up early to find the impressive cliffs of Cap Blanc in front of us. There are vestiges of a large fossil coral reef here that existed in this area of the Mediterranean during the Miocene. More than 5 million years after, we are here to see how these sea floors have evolved. We will use the transection method in order to learn the distributions of the different ecosystems and species between the cliff and the depths of 100 meters. For this, we will work with both the divers in the shallower areas and the robot in the deeper areas.

Taking advantage of the fact that we are close to Mondragó Cove, the divers are going to film the sea bottom and, more importantly, the caves and rock walls. An unfamiliar yet highly important habitat for the coastal area can be found here, it is a "troittoir" or "ledge," known in the Balearic Islands as "tenasses." It is a mass of calcareous red algae (normally of the Litophyllum species, but sometimes also Neogoniolithon) which forms a small ledge just where the waves break, making an immensely interesting biological community.

At night, the wind picks up and, although we could have kept sailing until we reached our destination, the rough seas would have prevented us from carrying out our work anyway. So, in order to take advantage, we have decided to change our plans a little and do some diving in the south-eastern part of Mallorca, where we will be sheltered from the north-easterly winds that are powerfully blowing and we will have more of a chance of success.

After arriving at Palma de Mallorca to load supplies and make some changes in the crew, we being to prepare ourselves to receive the submarine robot (ROV) that we will use during the next few weeks. The day has been quite hectic; it is very difficult to find a slot in Palma these days and we need one that will permit the use of the crane to load the ROV and all the necessary material. In order to achieve this, we have had to tie up and untie the boat five times, occupying different slots as they became available thanks to the cooperation of their owners.