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Blog Posts by: Jesús Molino

Carrying out a campaign like this requires a great deal of coordination. Some of the operations involve the handling of very sensitive equipment and also in this area we have the added difficulty of the currents and changes in the tide. Today, while we were performing 3 ROV operations and various others with the dredge, we were planning the dives for tomorrow and the entry into port within the next week, so that everything is properly organised. Entry into port for a boat like the Neptune requires taking several factors into account.

We are anchored here in Marsaskala. Today we’ll be working on an anchoring spot for cargo ships, just in front of Marsaskala. It’s an area that you can see has been affected by some anchoring and bunkering. However, we still come across interesting spots to film. So much so that yesterday afternoon the ROV filmed something unusual towards one side and then the radar started to draw a big square-like shape. The ROV controllers steered the ROV in that direction with the captain trying to follow the same path so we could take photos of whatever we found there.

One of the main objectives of this campaign is to find sea caves. At depths of up to 50 m surveys can be carried out by SCUBA diving; four divers document in videos and photographs everything that is found. After a two-hour sail we got to the first area to be surveyed today. Two safety divers and two cameramen got ready for the action. Safety divers bring along notebooks, sample containers and sometimes an extra camera in case it´s needed; we also take buoys and reels, as buoys are used whenever we find a cave, so we can easily spot the exact GPS location of the cave from the surface.

The first immersion is made by the divers, and we document the caves to see what we can find. We are at the exact same spot as the last dive. This is a crack visible from the surface, a cut in the wall 200m deep that splits into two paths; during the last dive we explored the left path, now it is the right´s turn. We went over the wall for 1 hour and 41mins and found 4 caves between the surface and the first 25m deep, some of them very narrow.

Today is a quiet day, so I would like to speak of what is not seen, of what no pictures are taken or shown. It takes several months from both the Logistics and Science department to prepare the Ranger for an expedition like this. A lot of people work from the office making our every day on board possible; this is a significant support unnoticed by the media because the Ranger is that good-looking boy who gets all the attention, even admiration I dare say. Without that work and support, it´s unlikely we´d be here today.

When we reached the ROV immersion spot, the wind increased slightly. The ROV was about 780m deep, so as the wind was blowing harder and the waves came before expected, we suspended the immersion and began to lift the ROV back to the surface with no major problems. Our journey turned complicated as the waves were too big. Shortly after leaving the port, we came across a fishing gear. The buoys are usually plastic bottles hard to identify, and the wind blows hard enough to tauten the ropes leaving them on the surface.

At 7:00 am, the crew starts appearing on deck; by 7:30 we are ready to throw the lines and leave the harbour. We head northwest, surrounding the island near its cliffs. Half an hour later, everything is ready to put the ROV into the water. The first dive is carried out without too much trouble, some wind and some rain at the beginning, but nothing to worry about. Nonetheless, things become a bit complicated right after collecting a sample in the second dive. The ballast that holds the ROV´s umbilical cable must have gotten entangled with a rock.