Aside from a handful of small surveys and maintenance runs, it’s been nearly 600 days since the last time the Ranger had gone out to sea. Before, we had at least one or more expedition per year for 15 years in-a-row, but the global pandemic unfortunately put an end to that, with our last expedition taking place in late 2020.
…and it feels so good to be back on the water, doing what we do best: studying and documenting the state of our ocean aboard our sturdy and beloved research catamaran, the Ranger.
We started work today in the historic town of Almuñecar, whose history goes back to the Phoenicians almost 3,000 years ago.
We completed two dives today in the vicinity of La Herradura beach, with our divers locating gorgonians (Leptogorgia sarmentosa), orange corals (Astroides calycularis), hermit crabs (Dardanus calidus), worms (Mesochaetopterus rogeri, Sabella spalanzani), sea cucumbers (Holothuria tubulosa), anemones (Aiptasia mutabilis), and fish like seabreams, groupers, and electric rays. Oh yes, and the bioluminescent jellyfish are back—by the millions, making spectacular “highways of light” behind our stern in the darker hours.
Panaramic view of La Herradura beach and the Ranger. Photo credit: OCEANA / Vera Coelho.
Meanwhile, we carried out two ROV dives near the beach. One at 50 m and another at around 30 m. At 50 m, the seabed was covered by lots of sea squirts and dead man’s fingers. We also spotted some rare gorgonians from soft bottoms (Spinimuricea atlantica).
In the second ROV dive, we were researching in a sandy bottom with many round sea pens (Veretillun cynomorium) and some red mullets (Mullus surmuletus). Our divers also located plastics, mainly single-use ones like lollypop sticks, cutlery, as well as fragments of plastics.
Aside from our research, we also tested out our equipment, ensuring everything is in order—and it is! The Ranger is a fantastic boat.
So far, we have not found a large number of plastics, but they are everywhere, and they appear in every dive. I remember 20 years ago, plastics appeared in some dives, 10 years ago, plastics appeared in most dives, but nowadays, plastics appear in every single dive.