We are now half way through our research cruise and have left the Charlie-Gibbs Fracture Zone behind following the successful recovery of DOBO. Currently we are steaming towards the SW station located at a latitude of 48° N and the transit time between the CGFS and the SW station is about 30 hours, so we have plenty of time to prepare for arrival. We expect to arrive at the SW station in the early hours of June 16th. So far the cruise has been largely successful (with the exception of not recovering the whale bones) despite some pretty poor weather doing its best to limit science activities.
Throughout the cruise we have been provided with daily satellite updates of weather fronts and sea surface temperature of our study sites from our ECOMAR partners at the Plymouth Marine Laboratory (PML). There are no participants from PML on this cruise but they are very kindly e-mailing us with daily satellite updates. These satellite images can prove to be vital when planning future science activities while onboard. When you begin working at sea for the first time you soon realise that the order of planned activities will continually change due to variable weather conditions that can limit the deployment and the recovery of sampling equipment.
Today when we awoke there was a bit of a swell but no one was particularly concerned by this as there were no science activities planned for today. However after lunch the ocean state had begun to calm and for the first time during the cruise we got some sunshine. Everyone onboard was very happy about the change in weather and so we were all finding jobs to do that meant working out on deck. Recovering DOBO meant all the equipment attached to the frame needed to be removed and Phil was busy checking out the state of equipment. Much to my own surprise DOBO was in excellent condition and the equipment looked good despite having spent the last 3 years on the sea floor at a depth of 3700 m.
When DOBO was recovered I was personally interested in all the organisms that had made the lander a home and were found growing on the frame. Normally if you place any man made structure in the ocean it will quickly be biofouled (marine organisms will begin to grow on the structure). We call these organisms living on hard surfaces “epifauna”. Despite DOBO being in the water for 3 years there was actually very few epifauna living on the frame. We know very little about biofouling organisms in the deep-sea and any new specimens we can collect can provide us with valuable information.
The most abundant organisms we found living on DOBO were hydroids (solitary and colonial) but there was also a number of anemones, tube building amphipods and a crinoid. We decided to photograph the epifauna, collect specimens and also take a note of where specimens were recovered from on the lander.
My day ended helping Thom and Phil set up the PAL lander for deployment at the SW station. After this was done it was time for bed and I knew that when I awoke the next morning that the CTD would have already been deployed and the long term moorings at the SW station should almost be onboard providing me with a number of sediment trap samples that would require processing.