We begin the last day with calm seas and practically no wind. We are east of Columbretes at seven in the morning, profiling the canyon that is located there with the sonar. The surface is at approximately 120 meters depth, falling to 600-700 meters from there, and the walls are almost vertical in some parts.
After almost three days of storms, including almost 20 hours of jumps and jolts during the first day and at dock the other two days, we can set sail at last. The weather is not as good as the report said it would be, but it will get better as the day passes.
After a few days in Formentera to prepare to ROV for filming the seamounts of the channel of Mallorca, we start work once again. Yesterday, we took advantage and the divers were able to get some images of groupers (Epinephelus marginatus), striped groupers (Epinephelus costae), mottled groupers (Mycteroperca rubra), barracudas (Sphyrna viridensis) and other medium and large-sized fish.
Last night, we set sail from Palma and headed towards the seamounts of the channel of Mallorca. We had to make some adjustments because we wanted to reach 300 meters depth, and we had to wait until the weather improved. As soon as we were ready, we headed towards the first and deepest seamount, Les Olives.
Although the sea was quite calm, the morning was cloudy. The clouds do not only appear in the sky, though. They also appear on the robot, with which we are having some difficulties.
We reach Cabrera on the 15th in the afternoon in order to continue sampling the eastern part of the National Park. Ten minutes after the robot was in the water, we saw some fog beginning to form on the camera lens, which is bad news; water was somehow getting inside. We decide to suspend the dive and lift the ROV out of the water. There must be a broken seal or connection.
Today we will stay at port in Rota. There is a windstorm in the Straits of Gibraltar, and we'll have to wait for the weather to improve in order to cross over to the Balearic Islands. We must prepare the boat today and reorganise all the information we’ve obtained during the week, prepare the documents to send to Madrid and, in short, draw some conclusions.
We practically haven't slept at all. The dive with the ROV was impressive, in spite of the fact that it was in shallow water, we spent three hours observing the nocturnal feeding habits of squid and cuttlefish, and the dark shadows of the predators hunting the small fish attracted to us by the lights.
For days we’ve been seeing what we believe to be Cymodocea nodosa floating in the water. Its presence off the coasts of Huelva was documented for the first time in the delta of the Piedras River, in March of this year. We believe there must be more areas where meadows of this seagrass can be found. We ask Ricardo and he gives us some coordinates he has obtained from satellite images.
Today, we wanted to finish mapping the area where we found the gorgonians in order to delimit it and prepare a proposal for its protection. But, when we reached the waypoint, our hearts were literally broken in two… Two trawlers were fishing atop the sea beds we had documented the day before. The Nuevo Panchita and the Abuelo Pichin were illegally trawling their nets at approximately 23 meters depth and at less than 6 miles from the coast.
Today, no one had hopes of finding anything “exceptional” on the sea bed. After 5 months of campaigning, the crystal-clear waters of the Mediterranean and the marvellous ecosystems we’ve observed, it's difficult to make everyone understand the importance of these waters and their riches.