When you are working in the field you are vulnerable to the environment that you are in. Sometimes you have to roll with the punches. This is the time for seat-of-your-pants science; on-the-spot experimental design, new goals on the fly and planning of optimum time and resource use. It’s not what anyone wants but it’s where science gets sexy and a lot of interesting discoveries are made.
I’m sure it’s clear that I’m alluding to something here. We got chased from Irish waters by a monstrous low pressure! Right from about as far north as Glasgow all the way back down to the Bay of Biscay, and it still hounded us there. Waves so severe that not only could we not work, it was pretty dangerous.
The unfortunate result was the cutting short of the Irish sector of the cruise. A big loss for those who were eager for data from there but something that was totally unavoidable. We had managed to do everything that we wanted to at the Arc Mounds and had headed much further north to the Logachev Mounds. Here we were repeating a survey done 10yrs ago to monitor any changes to the reef over time. The older survey had also been done by the Victor ROV (he is 18 years old! I had no idea he had aged so well). We managed to do the southern side before the weather came in and we needed to abandon the area.
So a new plan had to be formulated. We needed to get the most out of our remaining time and to plan around the still encroaching weather system. We tried to plan quick and efficient dives at the Irish stations while we headed south but it proved too hard to outrun the storm. We had to keep going as it was right on our heels.
We returned as far south as the Sorlingues canyon and planned to use our newly gifted time to really investigate the area, looking at areas that were likely habitats for coral. The extra time paid off and we discovered a well-developed reef that was previously unknown. With spirits raised by this good news we continued to Lampaul canyon. Unfortunately we were not able to find any new reefs there but we did get some nice behavioural observations including a fish eating what appeared to be a worm, and another fish being eaten by a squid. We did have better luck reef-hunting in the Croisic canyon. We chanced going deeper and found a dense reef at 1,200-900m, much deeper than we are used to finding them. Continuing into shallower waters the reef stopped but then started again at the usual depth of about 700m. We will have some fun trying to figure out just what is causing this.
So we managed to adapt to the changing weather well. It gave us the opportunity to more deeply investigate those areas we had already covered and allowed us to be a little braver, exploring unknown areas and following hunches. The new coral areas that were discovered help us to feel that, although we had to change our plans very quickly, we still achieved a great deal in the second leg.
It is almost time for everyone to head their separate ways. It’s great to get excited about all the new data that you are gathering but you soon realise that the real work is yet to come. As your back-up drive tells you that you have terabytes of new data the dread sets in……this is going to take a lot of late nights in the lab to get through!