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July 23, 2011

The wall of the conger eel

BY: Pilar Marín





My third and last day on board the Ranger… is going to go by very quickly, I know. After navigating approximately 10 miles off the coast of El Ejido, we find ourselves surrounded by a dozen sports boats and a few trawlers indicating that we are approaching the underwater mountain. The plan for today is to find some rocky mounds in the north of the Chella Bank or Seco de los Olivos and find out about the fauna there. At the diving point we are surprised by a current transporting a multitude of ctenophora and a few porgy. Nevertheless, we haven’t had luck finding what we were looking for, although we were able to take some samples of sponges and to find bunches of white deep sea coral Lophelia pertusa accompanied by Leptometra phalangium and a few fork beards (Phycis blennoides).

The first immersion of the afternoon, above a rocky mound, surprises us again with tall black corals (Leiopathes and Antipathes) of different colours, white and orange… and a “swarm” of conger eels in a wall where we have been able to find 20 individuals together. We are disconcerted by another angular rough-shark swimming before us again, completely calm, gifting us with marvellous images. We have also been able to take a sample of solitary corallites which will help us to determine one of the species that we have been observing more frequently in the soft bottom of Chella Bank.

When navigating towards the port, we have crossed a group of bottlenose dolphins going towards the SE. This time, we have counted some 18 adults that have greeted me and Kike in the bow. Only 2 miles off the coast, the sonar finds for us a small escarpment around 25 metres deep and we decide to explore, since, in the surroundings, we are able to count half a dozen buoys probably pointing out some fishing gear. To our amazement, we have found that it is a seabed of hlithes and kelps. Luckily, and by pure chance, the ROV has brought up a sample of kelps stuck in its propeller. We have seen that what we initially thought were remains dragged by the currents, were really live specimens of kelps whose foot is anchored to a rhodolite.

Now I feel sad because I must say goodbye and go back to the office and at the same time, lucky for having enjoyed this magnificent experience. Thank you!!!