Continuing the reporting from the 2nd leg of the CoralFISH cruise aboard the Celtic Explorer to the North-east Atlantic.
Day 8 – Tuesday 12th May
We did one long dive (dive 6) on the Arc Mounds on the Porcupine Bank margin. The ROV entered the water at 9.40 a.m. and reached the bottom half on hour later at a depth of 655m. During this dive we saw lot of big solitary purple sea urchins on the sand. Our interest increased when we discovered some impressive coral stands, taller than those observed in the Bay of Biscay. In addition, fish,were more plentiful, e.g. we say a tusk feeding on a small fish captured on the reef. At the end of the day, 5 grab stations were also done to collect samples.
Day 9 – Wednesday 13th May
We did a second short dive (dive 7) at the Canyon T1 site. The ROV was launched at 10.00 a.m. and reached the bottom less than one hour later at a depth of 1,396m. This was a very interesting dive with a lot of fish especially shark species and Macrourids (rattail fish). There wasn’t much coral, mostly coral fragments and evidence of trawling present, but sometimes we found some drop stones covered in live corals. One of these was amazing: in the middle of nowhere, we found a drop stone with a large antipatharian (black coral) fan supporting squat lobsters extending their long arms into the water column in an attempt to catch food. Zooming in with the HDTV camera, we discovered some small fish hiding in the corals. The day continued with grab sampling to collect coral samples.
Day 10 – Thursday 14th May
The bad weather expected during the night appeared in the morning. Waves became higher, but nobody aboard was seasick. As the weather didn’t permit us to use the ROV, we decided to do 9 grabs to collect corals on the top of some predefined mound locations and CTDs, which gave the chemical characteristics of the sea water.
Day 11 – Friday 15th May
The sun was back. The seabirds were also, following us believing we were fishermen and they could expect fish. The program today was to carry out CTDs and SAPs (collect phytoplankton by pumping sea water) all the day for some scientists and to continue analysing the data for others. During the preparation of the 2nd SAPs some lucky people saw a seal.
Day 12 – Saturday 16th May
The weather was very bad: big waves with a lot of wind and rain. It was difficult to work on the computers but some of us managed, others spent time to relax and not be seasick. Because of the weather we spent 19 hours in transit from Belgica mounds to the Arc mounds. Towards nightfall, the weather improved slightly and so we were able to conduct some CTDs and SAPs.
In the evening it was time for the Eurovision song contest final. Yeah! Almost everyone was watching TV and Jimmy was very well dressed for the occasion. We had our own competition and scorecards. First prize was of course for the winner, second prize went to the last person with the least points! and third prize was for the second. And the winners were… Richard for Norway, Pat for Finland and Marie for Iceland!
Day 13 – Sunday 17th May
The weather had improved. We were on the way back to Belgica mounds to do some more grabs. During the day, scientists continued to analyse the data collected and the crew cleaned the ship. After dinner, we had our last scientific meeting to ensure that all the data were collected, exchanged and saved. In the evening a number of grab samples were taken to collect live corals, however no live corals were found.
Day 14 – Monday 18th May
It is the last day of the cruise. Everybody is cleaning, packing and organising equipment and samples for transport back to base. We arrived in Cobh at midday, before leaving we had our last lunch together. Those travelling back to the continent stayed aboard for one more night while the NUI Galway contingent packed up their equipment in a large van and headed back to Galway.