We gathered in Brest, France on the 9th of September; a diverse group of scientists from all over Europe. The CoralFISH project has been active now for about 3 years, and due to the relatively small world of ocean science it is getting harder and harder to join a vessel where you do not know anyone. So the day of mobilisation was also one of reunions. We get to play the regular game of “I know you, but where from?” sometimes this will go on for the first few days of the cruise!
Early on Saturday morning we sailed out into the Bay of Biscay. This body of water is known for its rough seas and a few were feeling a little unwell in the first science meetings. The sea has been fairly rough for the whole time we have been out but seems to get worse at night. A gentle rocking can help you get off to sleep but when the movement is enough to roll you over and back again it’s a little less restful. I then get to do my late night pastime; worrying about all of my equipment on deck and in the lab. I seem to lose a lot of sleep imagining the tipping point of a monitor or a deep sea battery.
It seems like my cabin is aware that I am doing this and wants to join in. In the total darkness something will start rolling about, or will crash suddenly. Startled, I will flip on the light. Now I know it’s not possible for a room full of inanimate objects to “play innocent” but I swear it does! Everything looks exactly the same. I know that something made a crash but I just can’t see what’s different. Games like these are a great way to while the night away and I didn’t really want to sleep anyway.
We have joined is the Ifremer vessel “Pourquoi Pas?” which translates as “Why not?” a great name for a vessel of discovery. She is a large ship, about 108m long and 8 decks high and is coping well with the swell.
Upon arrival at site we deployed an ADCP (Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler) which will record water currents in the area for the next week and also the Biogenic Reef Ichthyofauna Lander (BRIL) that will be looking at the fish around the coral areas. We then launched the Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) “Victor 6000”. This is the most advanced piece of equipment we will use and will conduct the majority of the work during the cruise. It is a highly complex machine and deserves to be covered in far more detail in specific blog posts later in the cruise.
Currently it is diving with its geological equipment suit, flying about 50m off the seabed and bouncing sound waves off the undersea terrain. Since we can get the vehicle so close we can get much higher detail than we could from the same system mounted on the hull of a ship as the water depth is about 800m. We are currently using this to map the complex terrain of the Bay of Biscay’s canyons.