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We awoke in the Florida Middle Grounds, an area protected against bottom trawling formed by an ancient reef about 100 miles from the coast. Its peaks reach a depth of 25 meters. There we had planned to do another series of submersions. Our initial plan was to use the divers on the reef’s peaks and the ROV on the slopes that dropped off to depths lying outside the scuba’s possibilities. The submarine robot’s problems, that we hope to solve tomorrow, have forced us to concentrate on the shallower parts of the Middle Grounds. For the first time, visibility was excellent. The sandy bottom, sprinkled with coral, also held abundant specimens of coral and tube sponges in which specimens of gobies, spider crabs, grouper, hogfish, angelfish, jellyfish and algae like the halimeda live.

We arrived at the Tampa-Saint Petersburg dock, already quite a bit to the north of the western part of the Florida coast that is bathed in the Gulf waters. Today is the day that several shipmates who have been with us during this initial period of the expedition have had to leave the Latitude.

It has been a day of sailing. We have sailed with excellent weather, a calm sea and a just sun Once it was freed from its struggle against the Gulf Stream, the Oceana Latitude regained its cruising speed of 10 knots.

People continued adjusting their gear, answering their e-mails, editing videos and photographs and preparing work for the upcoming days. Together with the fact that it’s a weekend and not much input is being received from land, this has been a quiet day.

This morning at the crack of dawn we used Oceana Latitude’s powerful auxiliary launch, the Longitude, to transport our group of divers to two areas of the reef to perform the first dives of the campaign. The first one was kind of disappointing. Visibility was practically nil and the coral and gorgonians were covered with a thick layer of sediment from the Everglades and other coastal discharges. Like Sole Esnaola said, this was like “diving in milk”. The second dive, like the previous one, took place at about 20 meters, but in an area farther from the coast.

After sailing for almost two days from Fort Lauderdale, halted by the Gulf Stream, today we were able to start work on the sea. After having anchored the ship at the entrance to Key West harbor, we waited for nightfall to lower one of the Latitude’s launches and deploy a series of plankton light traps. They are a sort of keepnet with a very fine mesh, and a submersible lightbulb is placed inside them. The larvae and post-larval stages of many species are attracted by the light and they enter the traps through the small openings designed for this function.

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