Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Extraordinary diversity of life

Today may just top all days at sea here onboard the Hudson. That’s a bold statement to make considering all we have been fortunate to see thus far. But today…the marine life was incredible, and the surprises just kept coming. The site is in the Northeast Channel and is just inside the Coral Conservation Area. As the ROPOS entered the water and began to prepare for descent, a pod of Common dolphins journeyed over to check out the ROV, and our now familiar pod of pilot whales turned up at the same time to swim along side the ship, while rafts of Greater shearwaters (and even a Sooty shearwater!) were sitting at the surface. It certainly seemed to be a productive spot! To top it all off there was deep-fried ice cream at lunch.
As ROPOS descended into the deep blue we encountered a school of squid – and one hungry swordfish! As the swordfish came into the lights of ROPOS and approached a squid we collectively held our breath and then cheered as it swam closer to the camera, proceeded to slap the squid with its large sharp bill (to stun it perhaps?), and then bolted in to gulp it down. It felt surreal to see it in front of our eyes. You could feel the excited energy in the room. The school of squid stayed with us for awhile, taking advantage of the shadow of the ROV. A school of squid is spectacular – their chromatophores shimmer in the light, and they appear both graceful and powerful as they propel through the water.
Eventually we reached bottom at around 1,500 m and found the seafloor to be mud covered and flat, with some depressions. The site had a great diversity of fish including the odd looking batfish, cutthroat eels, grenadiers, and many still to be identified! We also encountered an octopus sitting on the bottom.
Mudcoring is going well and the CTD group took their last water samples today for analysis. It is hard to believe the trip is winding down and we’ll be back in Halifax on Wednesday morning. First though- bbq on the back deck tonight. J