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Blog Posts by: Ricardo Aguilar - Coordinador de la expedición

This afternoon we arrived in Vilamoura, dropped off the Portuguese scientists and are now preparing to leave tomorrow for the Straits of Gibraltar.

The sea is looking good, so it’s possible we’ll arrive at port ahead of schedule, which would be great as we will have more time to unload, prepare everything for the next few days, and get our feet on solid ground for a bit.

We conducted three ROV dives today. One on the east side about 520 meters deep, one in a small canyon southeast about 380 m deep, and the last on a mound that reached up to 40 meters.

In the first dive, we saw a mainly detrital sea floor and found some interesting things, including monkfish (Lophius budegassa and Chaunax pictus) and an amphora.

In the second, a rocky area with lots of life teeming in small caves and crevices, including roughies, parrot fish, forkbeards ... but we also saw too many fishing lines and entangled ropes and nets.

Last night we made a dive to see if we could spot some deep sea sharks, which at that time are usually rising from deeper areas in search of prey. And just at about 500 meters deep we found a Deania cf. calcea, a small shark with an elongated and flattened nose. We continued to lower the ROV down to -550 m.

Now we’ll be starting some dives into the small canyons south of Ormonde.

We continue to have good weather, but dawn brought a bit more wind. Yesterday there was barely any wind and the sea was as flat as a board.

Today we worked east of the Gettysburg seamount. It is here, in the valley between the two underwater mountains that more interesting species often appear (and where we often see cetaceans). The sea is almost flat.

It’s been a long but full day. We conducted dives on small 100-200 meter elevations found on the eastern slope of Gettysburg. In the first, at about 510 meters deep we found a nest of sponges (Pheronema carpenteri) on a detrital sea bottom and hydrocorals (possibly Stylaster sp.) on rocky bottom.

The first ROV immersio was to a sandy detrital bottom at 500 meters deep. There was little diversity. We found many solitary fan corals (Flabellum Chuni), several types of fish, a stripe, urchins, crinoids and many dead mackerels (Scomber japonicus). It looks like they were discards.

On the surface we found a lot of storm-petrels, almost all were Leach’s storm petrels(Oceanodroma leucorhoa), a Manx shearwater seabird (Puffinus Puffinus), a couple of skuas (Stercorarius skua) and a Sabine's gull (Larus Sabini).

According to the weather, we are going to get a break to work on the Gorringe bank. It may only be 2-3 days, so we have to make the best of it.

Today we are in port (Vilamoura) doing paperwork and waiting for the new Portuguese scientists to come on board. In the morning we’ll depart for the Gettysburg seamount and plan to return on Sunday October 7. Then we head back to the Mediterranean.