On-board Diary: "Heavy seas"

Author: Jorge Candán
Date: July 25, 2008



We’ve been at sea for almost two months with this campaign and have sailed for many miles –northern miles- although the truth is that we’ve been quite lucky with the weather and have been able to work practically every day. Slight winds and calm seas rocking us gently. The divers must dance to the rhythm of the currents that move them from side to side. The “heavy seas” remind us that, many miles away from here, the weather is more like winter, either more Cantabrian or more Atlantic, but definitely “more northern.”

Although this campaign has been focused on Spanish waters, tonight we have tied up on the other side of the Bidasoa (Hendaye-France), to document the seabeds near Fuenterrabia-Spain.

We carried out the first dive at the mouth of the estuary, on Zabala Point.

We land on a rocky seabed over which a prairie of algae (Falkenbergia rufolanosa) seems to be coming and going. A sea slug (nudibranch, Peltodoris atromaculata) is feeding in the prairie, hydrozoans cover some branches of a dead gorgonian and dozens of hermit crabs graze over the sponges. As always, the shy Ballan wrasse escape from the camera and hide amongst the rocks, cracks and sandbars.

A mollusc, the Berthellina edwardsi, mates between the rocks and nearby, a cloud of its eggs moves with the current.

In the afternoon, a school of salema (Sarpa salpa) swims along the prairie, feeding, advancing as if it were one, large animal. They relay each other, the ones in the back coming up front to feed on the seabed and a few seconds later, they lose their place again.

We're in Los Frailes, a small cove at the mouth of the estuary, on a sandy seabed sprinkled with rocks at 17 meters depth. It’s difficult to film on this sandy seabed completely covered by floating algae, torn away by the strength of the sea: they are constantly floating in front of the camera. We focus on the life atop the rocks covered by sponges under the ledges. Sponges, polychaetes and many other species are concentrated in these darker places.

In a crack, we spot a cuckoo wrasse (Labrus bimaculatus), a male, that is trying to hide from the camera. Like all wrasse, it was born orange like a male but will later turn blue, like a female. Next to the wrasse, an octopus hides each time the fish comes near, its thousands of chromatophores moving and changing each second. It changes colours, from white to brown, and becomes a living rock.