We departed at 6:00 a.m. from Portosín port. We headed towards an unnamed seamount located quite near the Villar de Fuertes mount. We want to get there early to avoid the north winds that pick up in the afternoon and force us to stop working. The seamount is very steep on its southern slope. Here, we find a sandy bottom first, then a rocky bottom harbouring a wide variety of species: holothurians, sea urchins, sponges, various types of fish, including a monkfish on the prowl, streaked gurnards, scorpionfish, bluemouth rockfish, etc. The rocks seem to be completely covered in brachipods and red, white and even green jewel anemones (Corynactis viridis). And a lot of black coral (Antipathes sp.), which has practically disappeared from all of its shallow habitats because it is harvested to make jewellery. We also spot a dead common dolphin, in advanced state of decomposition, covered in sea urchins taking advantage of the meal. After we finished with the ROV, we submerged the CTD, a machine that allows us to measure salinity, light, chlorophyll, turbidity and water temperature.
At last we were able to get some work done. After two days in port, we were beginning to get nervous. We fixed the crane and are working on the ROV. The divers are documenting some fantastic gorgonians at 40m depth, at last. Bottlenose dolphins, common dolphins and even a basking shark measuring over 4 meters (Cetorhinus maximus) has escaped our cameras, so we have to be much quicker next time.
Although the weather predictions said we were going to have three bad days due to strong winds, this morning is totally calm. We decide to head towards Salvora again and dive on the south side of the island, off a rock known as “piedra Pegar”.
We spot a group of common dolphins on the way (Delphinus delphis), as well as some yellow-legged gulls (Larus cachinnans) and gannets (Sula bassana) that seem to be having a fish feast as they dive head-on into the water.
We woke to strong winds coming from the northeast, but we attempted to go out anyway to verify if the seas were calmer outside the estuary. As we were heading towards Salvora, we notice that the conditions are good inside the estuary, in case we can’t go out to sea. Luckily, the island affords some protection so the seas are quite calm and we are able to get some work done.
We are doing very well with the filming. We’ve found amazing sea bottoms comprised of laminaria and maërl, harbouring as much life as any tropical forest. It’s worth it, even though we’ve worked 12 hours straight, without resting, only taking 15 or 20 minutes for lunch. Yesterday we had to postpone our work for more than one hour because a dolphin fell in love with the ROV and we couldn’t continue filming. The cameras did film the dolphin, though, and it was love at first sight.
We had a good day today, two divers in the water and two in the ROV searching for two emblematic species, the sea horse (Hippocampus ramulosus) and maerl, a prairie of free floating red calcareous algae, both very typical in the estuaries in Galicia.
Last night we went to sleep believing today would be completely different than what it turned out to be. The weather predictions made us believe we were not going to be able to film at all. The predicted force 5 winds meant the conditions would be unsafe for both personnel and equipment. Handling a 150 kg robot on board a catamaran is not easy.
We received the dry suits, because you can’t dive in these waters without them, departed from the port of Sanxenxo and headed towards Ons Island (in the National Park of the Atlantic Islands). We were delighted to find the seas were calm. During a one-hour dive, the 4 divers were able to document a wide variety of species facing Melida beach in Ons. These included, amongst others:
After an 8-day crossing and 3 days in port preparing the ship in Vigo, we finally took the first images of what promised to be very interesting sea floors.
We departed from the Real Club Nautico in Vigo at midday, after having received and distributed all the material necessary for the campaign: diving equipment and cameras, books and guides about undersea nature and the ROV itself, as well as the divers, scientists and technicians in charge of handling all of this. The team consisted of 14 people, each one with specific responsibilities. The desire to enjoy ourselves and work hard was shared by all, though.
We quickly fell back into the routine of the Ranger after a daylong respite in Gibraltar. While at sea, the ship requires 24-hours-a-day maintenance and if not for a strict schedule, it simply would not be able to operate.