It’s almost 9:00 p.m. and we’re back at port. Today we completed two dives with the ROV in one of the areas identified for research during the oceanography expeditions included in the LIFE + BAHAR for N2K project. This area is located to the north of the island of Gozo, about an hour’s sail away, and we worked at depths between 300 and 500 metres. Perfect weather for this type of work, given the difficulties that having a robot in the water implies; it’s impossible if the waves are too high or the current too strong.
It´s 18:30 p.m. and we´re getting closer to Burriana, the plan was actually to get there by tomorrow morning. This means just one thing: the dive had to be aborted much to our regret after making a Dragonera Morrot bathymetry last night. The wind blew north and the waves were of up to two meters high since 7: 30 am; additionally, the weather forecast predicted even worse conditions. So, despite of being eagerly expected as the icing of the cake, this mountain has gotten the “pending” status for one of our upcoming campaigns.
It is 22:00 and we are sailing 70 mn to the SE of Formentera, towards one of the underwater canyons where we conducted an ROV immersion this morning. The ROV went on four dives today, reaching a total of 13 immersions and amounting to nearly 30 hours of footage of the seabed in the escarpment.
We arrived at 4:00 at Guyot Bel, a knoll in the Mallorca channel SW of the Emile Baudot seamount, at the edge of the platform, right where the escarpment starts falling. We travel 22 nautical miles tonight to get here, we’ll work here today and then head back to the south of Cabrera, since the wind is going to come in hard in this area in the coming days and it will be more difficult to study the area at that point.
We spent the night doing bathymetry in the first section of escarpment (NE) to get it ready for the ROV dives today. On the first immersions of the day (the fifth so far in the escarpment), SE of Cabrera, the ROV went to its deepest point so far in any of our expeditions, -1000 meters. We found a muddy hillside and rocky walls as we expected, and we were fortunate to document a deep-sea shark, a gulper (Centrophorus granulosus).
Today, we conducted ROV immersions 2, 3 and 4 at the Emile Baudot escarpment, focusing on the area south east of Cabrera and starting at depths greater than 800 meters. We found some very interesting habitats. First, we saw elevations that we had assumed to be rocky, but were in fact mud based. Some of them were several dozens of meters high, riddled with tunnels dug out by crustaceans, the entrance of which were shaped like horseshoes.
This morning we arrived at the Emile Baudot escarpment, down seabed south of the Balearic Islands, which reaches more than 2,000 meters deep giving way to the Algerian-Balearic basin. It is south of the Balearic promontory in SW to NE direction from Formentera to Menorca. For a few days we will study this escarpment on their way closer to the Cabrera National Park, to provide data on the ecosystems. The National Parks Act requires that such seabed formations are represented in the network of national parks and this is something that is not yet fulfilled.
Today, we conducted some ROV immersions in two of the many areas affected by the hydrocarbon prospection projects currently taking place in the Gulf of Valencia. Permits for these types of projects have been granted over the past few years despite the fact that they jeopardize the seabed and the rich ecosystems that call it home. The environmental impact studies that support these projects barely provide any information about what actually exists there.
We are in the port of Burriana, where the Ranger been for the past week undergoing final preparations. We're all on board; a crew of 12 including technicians, a videographer, a cook, the captain, sailors and scientists, including our guest for this expedition, Alberto Serrano from IEO Santander.