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Blog Posts by: Hanna Paulomäki

Today is the last day at sea for the crew of the Neptune, since we’re scheduled to dock in Newcastle tonight, putting an end to this expedition, the second by Oceana in the North Sea.

We have a lot of nautical miles along five countries at our back, we’ve dredged the seabed 138 times, taken 799 samples, and done over 80 ROV transects. We’ve made a total of 28 dives which, as a diver, were certainly the best moments for me.

After a few dry days, today was the last dive of the expedition and Scotland has left its mark.

It is the kingdom of the crustaceans: velvet crabs, brown crabs, lobsters...we find a pair of claws guarding the entrance to almost every crack, every hole.  

The interesting thing we came across was a velvet crab in the middle of molting. The way crustaceans grow is fascinating: they shed their shell (exoskeleton) as if it were a glove. Little by little its new shell absorbs water and hardens, growing to almost twice its size.

If I was forced to choose one of the dives that we have had the pleasure of enjoying up until today, I’d pick the Farne Islands, a National Nature Reserve on the border between English and Scottish water. The region teams with lobsters, brown crabs, lion's mane jellyfish, black wrasse, and opulent shoals of pollack, which, together to an immeasurable stretch of red dead man's fingers on the seabed, are guarded by the fascinating presence of the gray seal, the undisputed king of its coasts.

Another time zone, another UTM zone, and the circle closes. Numerous X mark the zones already conquered. The last stronghold is Newcastle: the siege begins.

The multi-beam gives us intel about the terrain. A flat zone, muddy, no rocks or slopes that would indicate something of interest. The scientists confirm the substrate and the type of local life with a few forays with the grab.

The weather makes it prudent to postpone the main observation attack with the ROV. Today it stays on deck, patiently waiting its turn.

 

Today we set out from IJmunden in the Netherlands heading out for British waters and the last leg of the expedition. The forecast predicts a hard crossing and indeed the waves are hitting the ship hard coming sideways from the south. We are passing the time reviewing the details for the last part of the expedition and gazing at the horizon to avoid sea sickness. As a Dane sailing to England in hard weather I cannot help but feel a little akin to the Vikings of old and their voyages across the very same sea that we are now traversing.

The campaign is drawing to a close and we must decide which shall be the final samples of the campaign, a dredge in the canyon of Saint George and a sampling with CTD, and two further CTD to complete the information on the canyon of Jounieh. The CTD enables us to obtain salinity data, pH, temperature and other physical parameters about the column of water at several depths... interesting information.  In total we have conducted 13 CTD dives, 52 dives filming the depths with the ROV and 12 dredges. 

My name is Ghazi Bitar, I am an oceanographics professor in the Lebanese University. I represent the RAC/SPA, which depends on the UNEP, on board the Sea Patron ship within the framework of the "Deep Sea Lebanon" project. On 26 October 2016, just one day before said mission ends, it was my turn to give my opinion and express my impressions about the way the day has gone.

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