On-board Diary: Menorca Canyon
Author: Ricardo Aguilar
Date: October 1, 2006
At last, we reach this immense canyon south of Menorca. The first dive takes us to a depth of 235 meters, a record for us. As soon as we reach the bottom, we see an anglerfish (Lophius sp.) camouflaged amongst the fine sediment. Soon, the walls of the canyon begin to rise quickly and we come across different sea floors; some covered with large quantities of detritus and others with rocks. Some of these rocks are quite large and are spotted with sponges and some gorgonias. The first we see is a Callogorgia verticillata, and later we spot some Isidella elongata and other smaller ones that seem to be Bebryce mollis, although we need to confirm this with the recorded images. But the most spectacular by far are the yellow tree corals (Dendrophyllia cornigera) reaching incredible dimensions. On the tallest rock, we see concentrations of yellow gorgonias (Eunicella cavolini) and some marine sponges (Axinella sp.) and small corals.
During the second dive, we are not able to descend so much, to 212 meters, and the currents are quite strong. The scenery is similar to the one we just saw. More corals and gorgonias. Now there are many more fish than there were in the morning, including swallowtail seaperches (Anthias athias), combers (Serranus cabrilla), scorionfish (Scorpaena scrofa) and a John Dory (Zeus faber). We see very little algae, although we have been able to see some dispersed laminaria, such as the Phyllariopsis brevipes.
As soon as we reached the top of the canyon, at around 85-90 meters depth, we see a maerl bed, and further on some rocks and calcareous red algae of the Peyssonelia and Mesophyllum species, and later a sandy area with large quantities of sea urchins, especially the Spatangus purpureus.
The day started off well, but the weather steadily become worse. I am afraid we will have to finish our work for today and seek shelter near the coast.