Author: Josep María Rovirosa "Pitu"
Date: October 3, 2009
It’s 7:15, the day is dawning slowly, like the way most are waking up aboard the ship. Charly is on watch on the bridge, and Captain Nuño is washing the windows the same way people do at stop lights in big cities.
Ricardo Aguilar started the day needling me, telling me I’m really bad because yesterday we found a Lophelia for the first time, but it was dead. It is a very large coral of biological interest found on reefs. It can grow up to 6 meters high and thus create a habitat for many species of wildlife. But unfortunately, we rarely find this type of coral alive because most of them are dead and have been for several years. These are considered to be subfossils. As the ROV’s pilot, I will consider this as a challenge between my navigator, Siscu and me. We won’t take our eyes off the scene until we find it.
Today we will start off with the ROV in el Banquete off of Fuerteventura where they have told us that we can find some volcanic cones that may yield us countless surprises. I hope the Lophelia is around here. It would be quite a finding.
We hit bottom at 9:04 at 406 meters. What a trip! We came across several dogfish (Squalus megalops). The spines on their dorsal fins are characteristic. They pass by us very quickly at a close distance to the ROV. It is a small species reaching up to 70 cm, and we saw them in all sizes. Among them, we also spotted up to three sharpnose sevengill sharks (Heptranchias perlo), another species of shark with a single dorsal fin and a black-tipped caudal fin. These sharks do not grow more than a meter and a half. We spent 15 minutes on the bottom and we never stopped seeing dogfish everywhere. What a treat! Among so many sharks, another elasmobranch appeared before our eyes. It was a large bottlenosed skate (Rostroraja alba), and it touched the ROV several times. Sometimes I think that they are the ones who find us, and not us the ones who find them. We are on a soft bottom where there is not much life around. We were lucky to see so many dogfish as we did. At 10:31 we found the first rock. It must surely be part of the volcanic cone that we were looking for. There we found an incredible burst of life: sponges, gorgonians, fish and other creatures. The most abundant sponge is the glass sponge (Asconema setubalense). They are quite large, some over a meter in the shape of a hat. There are white and orange black coral (Leiophates sp.) and yellow coral (Stichopates sp.). We were taken aback by a large purple gorgonian that we have been unable to identify, another challenge for Riki. A vertebrate fish or two appeared among sponges and coral such as a conger eel (Conger conger) and a cephalopod, a small cuttlefish with a defiant pose. We spent more than two hours at the bottom, and we still continued seeing dogfish. The number of dogfish that passed before the camera since the beginning is astounding. At 11:21, a common eagle ray showed up (Myliobatis aguila); very odd at a depth of 372 meters. I can’t believe it! Another dead Lophelia. Two days finding them in this condition, but no sign of a live one. It’s making it difficult for me. My desire to find one with open polyps is growing even more. We finished the submersion with some trumpetfish (Macroromphosus scolopax). It was already twelve o’clock then, and the divers asked to go to the surface.
We concluded the submersion assessing the number of sharks, another dead Lophelia, but few “critters” in general.
Until next time, TTT.