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Oceana Ranger Expedition 2011: Heading Toward Seamounts

For two months, the expedition will travel through the western Mediterranean and the Atlantic to study and canyons, environments rich in biodiversity but relatively unexplored due to their depth and complex terrains.

Diaries

Oceana’s expedition to the southeast Spanish coast, in the Almeria region, had an unexpected outcome. Using a submarine robot, we recorded more than 50 species along the Abubacer ridge, but one of them in particular, made quite an impression: an unidentified black coral.

It could be a species new to science and, at the moment, an investigation is underway to find out for sure if it is.

Oceana´s Ranger expedition is going strong as it continues through the Alboran Sea, which is the westernmost portion of the Mediterranean Sea. This area, famous for its great number and variety of cetaceans (marine mammals), did not disappoint: our on-board team of scientists, photographers, videographers and divers spotted more than 400 cetaceans in just one day!

Retrasamos la salida a medio día, para que la gente pueda descansar esta mañana. El motivo es que pretendemos hacer un par de inmersiones nocturnas en el seco, así que es mejor que la gente esté descansada. Las previsiones son buenas, dan calma para hoy, y eso es bueno ya que necesitamos que el mar esté calmado para trabajar de noche sin añadir más complicaciones a la tarea per se difícil.

Recently, the Spanish Ministry of the Environment and Rural and Marine Environment [Ministerio de Medio Ambiente, Medio Rural y Marino (MARM)] has approved, through a positive environmental impact declaration, the surveying of a large marine area in the search for fossil fuels, that could be found at more than 1600 metres, on the sea floor at a depth of 200 metres.

Es impresionante cómo, después de casi 50 inmersiones de ROV que Oceana ha realizado ya en la zona, podemos seguir encontrando hábitats nuevos. En esta ocasión, la sorpresa ha venido de la mano de un molusco, la ostra gigante Neopycnodonte zibrowii. A una profundidad de más de 400 m, sobre unas rocas, hemos hallado numerosos individuos de este longevo animal, que llega a vivir hasta 500 años y que está considerado un fósil viviente.

Logo LIFE-INDEMARESIt is impressive how, after almost 50 dives made by Oceana with the underwater robot (ROV) in this area, we can still find new habitats. This time, the surprise has come by the hand of a mollusk, the giant oyster Neopycnodonte zibrowii. More than 400 metres in depth, over some rocks, we have found several individuals of this long-lived animal, who lives up to 500 years and is considered a living fossil.

El año pasado, cuando trabajábamos en esta misma área -la mitad occidental de la zona delimitada para su estudio en el marco del proyecto LIFE+ INDEMARES-, hallamos igual que hoy grupos de delfines mulares, navegando, descansando o alimentándose. En esta ocasión hemos avistado dos grupos de al menos 15 individuos, algo similar a lo que pudimos observar en 2010 cuando trabajábamos en esta misma área.

Logo LIFE-INDEMARESLast year, when we were working in the same area –the western half of the area designated to be studied within the framework of the LIFE+INDEMARES Project–, we also found groups of common bottlenose dolphins, swimming, resting or feeding. This time, we saw two groups of at least 15 individuals, something similar to what we were able to observe in 2010 while we were working in the same area.

Logo LIFE-INDEMARESDivers

We start the day with a dive off Punta de Baños, a place also known as "Culo de perro." The seamount is pretty interesting because its southern slope rises two or three meters from the sea bed, harboring numerous gorgonians Leptogorgia sasarmentosa and many other species we'll describe when we analyze the images taken by the divers.

ROV dive

After various days “ROVing” off Cape St. Vincent and sleeping anchored in the Sagres inlet, we decide to change our plans: since we weren’t going to be able to go to Gorringe for a while, we would set sail toward the Mediterranean again. We need to get some work done in the Alboran Sea and, meanwhile, we’d be checking up on the weather. If we see the smallest chance of improvement, we’d return to the Atlantic to work on Gorringe faster than the speed of light. Anyway, the seamount is only three days away… We can’t miss the opportunity!

Ana de la Torriente y Gorka Leclercq

Ayer hicimos el primer intento y pusimos rumbo al Gorringe. Tras navegar unas 12 millas naúticas, Nuño, el capitán, decidió que el viento y el oleaje seguían siendo demasiado fuertes para trabajar varios días lejos de costa y que las previsiones no parecían ser muy alentadoras para los próximos días. Así que volvimos a costa y fondeamos frente a Sagres, donde pasamos la noche.

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The Crew