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September 29, 2007

Three days of storms

BY: Ricardo Aguilar



After almost three days of storms, including almost 20 hours of jumps and jolts during the first day and at dock the other two days, we can set sail at last. The weather is not as good as the report said it would be, but it will get better as the day passes.

Today we will visit the seamounts and banks that, according to the charts, are located between the Ebro delta and north of the Balearic Islands. We couldn’t find them, though. The elevations did not show up on the sonar. The problem is that the charts do not always correspond to reality, as we have seen on more than one occasion. For this reason, we wind up north of Mallorca; it’s a good opportunity to analyse these sea beds because the northern part is quite different from the southern, where we have been carrying out most of our work.

Although the dive was atop a muddy sea bed and the images are not as spectacular as rocky floors, we are all very satisfied with the results. We have reached 240 meters depth and have observed a wide variety of species.

The most common are the cerianthids or tube anemones (Cerianthus membranaceus), many times present in groups of six or seven specimens, when they normally occur alone. These beds also habour giant sea pens (Funiculina quadrangularis), crinoids (Leptometra phalangium), sea urchins (Echinus acutus), holothurians (Holothuria forskali and Stichopus regalis), brachipods (Gryphus vitreus and possibly Terebratulina sp.), etc.

This type of sea bed is considered an essential habitat for a wide variety of fish species, many of them commercially important. In fact, we spotted many megrims (Lepidorhombus boscii), sole (Solea sp.), hake (Merluccius merluccius), mullets (Mullus barbatus), various rays (Raja montagui and Raja miraletus) and many silvery pouts (Gadiculus argenteus) feasting on small crustaceans. Without forgetting the small-spotted catsharks (Scyliorhinus canícula), the trumpetfish (Macroramphosus scolopax), the boarfish (Caros aper), dragonets (Sinchiropus phaeton) and various gobies, blennies and scorpionfish. One of the most interesting things was seeing the Plesionika shrimp eating jellyfish, or watching the Macropodida crabs climbing on the cerianthids.

In short, the dive was very entertaining and provided us with a wealth of interesting information about this area. After hoisting up the ROV, we stopped the engines and stayed quite for almost an hour, enjoying the silence for a while.

Tomorrow is the last day of the campaign…