Yesterday we crossed the Mallorca channel, from Cape Blanco to the northern coast of Ibiza. The strong winds and heavy waves meant the end of this campaign was going to be rough. In the end, it rained a little and there was some lightning and a little movement during the night. But luckily, we didn't have to cancel any of the dives planned for today off the northern coast of Ibiza.
Today, we returned to Cape Blanco, on the west coast of Mallorca, a few miles south of Palma. We wanted to dive in the area again because these sandy bottoms harbour a wide variety of ascidians and other interesting species we want to document.
Yesterday was the last day of submersions with the ROV. So today, after spending the night in Cabrera -we had to request the necessary permits to spend the night in a protected area like this one- we headed toward Palma to unload the ROV.
The Cabrera Archipelago has been a sea-land National Park since 1991. It is one of the best preserved natural enclaves of the Spanish Mediterranean. This applies to its area with spectacular wind-shaped stubby vegetation and geology and what lies underwater. These protected areas, when they are well managed, hold a sample of how the Mediterranean would be if we treated it with the respect and care that it deserves.
This is the last available day for taking samples from this seamount. Therefore, we have taken pains to get as many hours of filming as we could. We have worked in areas more than 500 m deep with muddy bottoms colonized by interesting species like on a shallower part, only 150 m deep where we knew we would run across a huge variety of gorgonians.
Third and last day in the seamounts of the Channel of Majorca that we will explore during this campaign. On this seamount, because of the distance that separates it from the coast -more than 40 nm, both from the Pitiusas and Majorca- fishing has been reduced in recent years to barely some recreational fisherman in search of big trophies. This raises the possibilities of finding ecosystems that are still well-preserved.
After spending the night, we anchored at Cala Tarida, to the west of Ibiza. We set out early again toward the pockmark area between Ausias March and Ses Olives where we had already been on the 4th. Now our goal is to find, if possible, these curious geological formations on a seabed deeper than 500 m.
What can we do? If the report is bad, it’s bad, and we can only approach land. The west of Ibiza seems like a good spot because it’s sheltered by the strong easterly and it is one of the areas where we have planned some dives. So we set our course to West early with more than 6 hours of sailing ahead of us.
This is the second of the seamounts in the Balearic Islands that we are going to take samples of. In previous campaigns, we have documented its peak, which rises up to 90 m from the surface from a 400 m deep bottom. Finding a carnivorous sponge species again, as occurred in the 2007 expedition, was one of our man goals. As it rises to a relatively shallow depth, it still receives enough light for some species of algae to survive. Some of them thus form a type of habitat called maërl or rhodoliths that we found in vast expanses.
Two ROV submersions and a dredger in Ses Olives in the South are the result of a fairly complete day. This mount, some 20 nm to the east of Ibiza is the one we were looking at before the ROV broke down, and we have returned here to continue documenting its deepest slopes and beds. We had the opportunity to film three hours of seabed in the morning and about four hours in the afternoon with a dredger to collect a sample of the type of seabeds between submersions.