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Click below to go to the Cruise Logs - (photo credit: Lophelia Coral - Open-File Report 2008-1148 & OCS Study MMS 2008-015)

DISCOVRE 2009



Cruise Log: 8/06/2009, 9:54pm    



Steaming to our next location

Liz Baird

After the sub returned we used a 'CTD' (Conductivity, Temperature and Depth) instrument to characterize the oceanographic conditions. Here Leslie (TU) helps prepare it for launch. - click to enlarge
After the sub returned we used a "CTD" (Conductivity, Temperature and Depth) instrument to characterize the oceanographic conditions. Here Leslie (TU) helps prepare it for launch. - click to enlarge
Twelve hours - it is difficult to believe we have only been away from the dock for 12 hours! To take advantage of the high tide, we pulled out of Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution at 9 a.m. and steamed our way to our first dive site. Along the way we had our safety briefing with the captain, all of us wearing "pfds" (personal floatation devices) and Dr. Sandra Brooke (MCBI) demonstrating how to don an immersion suit. We also began preparing the gear needed for the submersible dive - each scientist has a particular interest that requires a specific sampling device such as a sediment core tube or a filtered bucket.

Our target location was chosen based on previous work by Dr. John Reed (FAU). We sent the sub down at 3 pm with Dr. Steve Ross (UNC-W) in the front and Dr. Sandra Brooke in the back. When he returned to the surface, Dr. Ross summarized his experience:

Most of the deep-sea bottom (beyond 200 m or 600 ft) is composed of soft sediments, mixtures of sand and mud. Our dive today, the first of this cruise, was on one of the most unusual habitats in the deep sea - a living, growing ancient coral reef. It's an incredible experience to be in a manned submersible at 1400 ft (not really very deep by deep-sea standards) where the water temperature is 7° C (45° F). Let me describe the dive:

Phil plunges into the Gulf Stream, carrying a line to attach to the front of the sub, the standard sub retrieval technique (photo by Liz Baird) - click to enlarge
Phil plunges into the Gulf Stream, carrying a line to attach to the front of the sub, the standard sub retrieval technique (photo by Liz Baird) - click to enlarge
Sandra Brooke and I cruise along the typical bottom of sand riddled with burrows and depressions, then suddenly the bottom goes straight up and the sides of this mound are covered in coral bushes. As we climb the mound the scenery becomes more rugged and diverse. There are large bushes of the coral Lophelia pertusa (the major habitat forming coral in cold waters); there are dead corals that have become habitat for other animals; strange glass sponges in a variety of colors and shapes dot the seascape. Along with the many species of corals, we see anemones all waving their arms in the current trying to feed in these productive waters. Red squat lobsters climb high in the coral bushes and stretch long arms into the water to grab whatever swims by. On this dive we see more sharks, at least 4 species, than I have seen in most other places, and one of the scientists on board tells me that this may be a spawning area for these sharks.
A Chain Dogfish, one of several sharks seen on the first dive. - click to enlarge
A Chain Dogfish, one of several sharks seen on the first dive. - click to enlarge
Other fish we see include black belly rosefish, conger eels, marlinspikes, roughies, and alphonsinos. We make many collections, being careful to take only the samples we need for genetics studies, taxonomy studies, coral biology, fish biology, microbiology, and others. We end our dive near the top of the mound, having climbed over 100 ft from where we started.

We covered a lot of territory and our video transects will be used to classify the bottom habitats and examine the animals relationships to these habitats. We saw commercially important species like golden crabs on this dive. We saw few signs of human impact, which is becoming more and more rare. We leave the bottom after about 3 hours of work and feel that we made a good start. We feel good that this incredible collection of diverse animals appears to be thriving and healthy. We'll see what tomorrow brings.



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