We’re sailing towards one of our research zones on the second to last day of the expedition. Even though we’re here to document the seafloor, we make sure nothing escapes our eyes, binoculars or cameras: seabirds, dolphins, turtles, tunas, swordfish…we’re documenting everything we see on the water’s surface.
We’re in the Mediterranean and we’re waiting to spot swordfish jumping above the water, dolphins and seabirds feeding of fish and dozing turtles on the surface. That’s the Mediterranean.
I joined the campaign yesterday, now at the base port on Salina Island. During my two weeks here we’ll sail from this port to the different areas that we have left to investigate, leaving and returning to port daily except when we go to the study area in Ginostra, the island formed by the Stromboli volcano.
Today has been great day’s work, one of those days that makes putting together a campaign like this worthwhile. We discovered a reef of polychaete worms of the Sabellaria cf. spinulosa species at Brown Bank, in the westernmost part of the Dutch waters. We conducted an 80-minute ROV on the seabed to film the reefs that these little builders have made by cementing tubes together to create reefs up to 30 centimeters tall that cover several square meters.
I've started my adventures out here in the North Sea, which was unknown territory for me until today.
Jorge (our GIS analyst) and I travelled on Monday to Eemshaven port to join the expedition for the Danish leg. For two weeks we’ll be carrying out research in several areas of interest in Dutch waters, looking for essential habitats for fish species as well as for the marine ecosystem in general.
Today, Monday, I am writing you from the port, instead of doing so from the sea as planned. A problem with the probe of the boat, an essential tool for us to be able to work, meant that we had to return to land before scheduled and moor for a couple of hours - hopefully not too long - before returning to sea.
Working days are numbered now, the end of the campaign draws near, despite the fact that my colleague Marta and I have just joined this expedition to carry out the final week of research on board.
Last day of the campaign, whether we like it or not. I tried to arrange to stay another month, but they tell me that it’s impossible. They have no heart! Thirty dives, with Carlos and Enrique carrying the cameras, Juan as chief diver I, Aaron as chief diver II, and Cris, the cook who became a diver (or was it the other way round?). One hundred and twelve ROV dives (that’s right, 112!) with Albert at the controls of the ROV and David his ROV copilot (congratulations to the ROV team, right David?) and 60 samples of different specimens.
Until a few years ago, the diaries were written almost exclusively by the scientists on board. As expected, we focused on the ROV dives carried out or those by the divers, we documented species and habitats, whale sightings, birds, turtles and rubbish on the surface. Occasionally, a colleague would offer to write and would give you a break and offer a new point of view of the campaign. Perhaps it would be an ROV technician, one of the divers or the cook. Now, and from quite recently, this method has become the norm and everyone on board writes diaries.
Today has been full of sightings, both on the sea surface and deep down. We’re in an area far from the coast, studying rocky sea beds that go from 300 to 700 metres deep. We’re looking for corals and other species that live in these reefs and, if truth be told, we’re having a lot of luck with what we’re finding! Today we have carried out two dives where we discovered one of the most stunning white coral reefs I’ve ever seen in these waters. There were lots of healthy and well developed Madrepora oculata but they are at risk due to fishing lines.