After the engine problems that forced us to return to Salina before schedule were solved, we set sail at 5 a.m. to return to our first sampling site: the Eolo seamount.
On our first ROV dive, we saw enormous walls of volcanic rock and old reefs of dead coral. Sponges were the stars here: hexactinellids (Farrea bowerbanki), massive demosponges (cf. Pachastrella sp., cf. Penares sp., cf. Phakellia sp.), dense groups of ‘lollipop’ sponges (Podospongias sp.) and carnivorous sponges (Cladorhiza abyssicola). We also documented our first sea fans (Muriceides sp.) on a rocky bed and Isidella elongate on the muddy seafloor.
This campaign is promising, equally below and above the water. The landscape of these volcanic islands (the Aeolians) springing up over the sea is an incredible sight. Tomorrow, we’ll continue researching this area with the same great enthusiasm now that we’re back in the Mediterranean after such a long time on other seas.