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September 17, 2008

September 17, 2008

©OCEANA/ Carlos Suárez


I wake up at 7:30am to a little bit of boat rocking and the sound of the motor, and look out the small round window in my cabin to see the sea passing by. “Oh no! We´re moving!”, was my first thought. Although I was tempted to stay in bed for the remaining half-hour untill breakfast, thoughts of my seasickness the other day made me hop down from the top of the bunk bed and reach for the pills I had brought along “just in case”. Well “just in case” ended up being a necessity, as I got really seasick on Monday and have taken the anti-seasickness pills diligently thereafter. And I’ve been fine ever since!

Today has turned out to be a fine day, with little wind and a relatively calm sea. This is important, as since coming aboard a few days back, we haven’t been able to use the ROV due to windy conditions, high ocean swells, problems with the lights, the cables… I was eager to see “Roverto” put into action and was told that the technicians that have come onboard in the past couple days are great. Seems the weather will only be ideal to use the ROV today and tomorrow, so I’ve got my fingers crossed. Things are looking good, and it seems that today will be the day!

We decide to do a test run, about 2 miles from the coast. We’re located at the northern tip of Mallorca, near Formentor. If all goes well, we’ll move a bit more off shore to this great underwater canyon we found yesterday, at points going down to over 500 meters deep. The test run is successful. After hitting the bottom at 85 meters deep, our trusty little robot shows us red coral (Corallium rubrum) and black coral (Antipathes subpinnata), sea urchins (Echinus melo), anemones (Cerianthus sp.) sea stars (Chaetaster longipes), sea cucumbers (Eostichopus regalis), worms (Bonellia viridis), and gorgonians. A spider fish buries itself in the sand when it sees the robot approaching it. We see the remains of a trawl net.

Lunchtime is 12pm every day. Today we have a curry dish with rice and melon for dessert. The cook has planned a set menu everyday, and I was told there wasn’t much flexibility in this. Since I don’t eat meat, I brought some extra things to eat just in case I was still hungry. But this hasn’t been a problem for me at all! In fact, anytime the meal involved meat, the cook has prepared me a separate meat-free plate! The crew is all really nice, and I really appreciate the consideration they have given me in preparing my meals.

So, onward to the spot we spot we surveyed yesterday. Everyone is anxious to see if the ROV will be successful here. Immersion Number 28 begins at about 1:30. I go into the booth where the technicians and us scientists watch the images of the ROV. Watching the screens, we see that the robot is going deeper and deeper, and the water darker and darker. Then the technicians turn on the light, and a few minutes later the ROV hits bottom. It took about 35 minutes in all for the ROV to get all the way down to 360 meters. This time we see a beautiful Solmissus albescens jellyfish, tiny axe fish, lots of small tube anemones (Arachnactis oligopodus), some shrimp hidden within rocks and some blackbelly rosefish (Helicolenus dactylopterus). But as we’re watching the screens, radars and videos, we see that the ROV is moving further and further away from the boat. It’s too far away and we have to raise it back up to the surface to avoid it getting damaged.

Later on, we decide to move on to Les Olives, a seamount halfway between Ibiza and Mallorca. Smooth sailing all the way for the rest of the afternoon. The crew alternate between working and taking in the beautiful scenery of the northern coast of Mallorca, full of steeps cliffs diving into the sea.