The main focus of today was the transit to the South Eastern station and the opportunity that it presented. During our transit we would pass over a seamount. These undersea mountains create boundaries, forcing currents to shift and different water depths to mix. These currents, and the hard substrate provided by the mount itself, support large populations of filter feeding invertebrates. These in turn support many other animals creating isolated hotspots of life. Usually the complex terrain makes only limited sampling possible but with the ROV we were able to closely explore these complex structures.
Life was abundant and diverse. Wolf fish, False Borfish, Codling, Orange Roughy and Chimera were just a few of the most striking fish species seen. Many were attracted to the lights of the ROV and would come to investigate us before we could move towards them.
The rocks were coated with a variety of colourful invertebrates, the majority facing into the current with a variety of filtering appendages. The same biological problem had been solved in the development of many different forms.
We were seeing some beautiful things and this moment served to take us out of ourselves. Most of us have ended up here through fascination with exactly this sort of thing. It’s easy to get too narrow sighted: will the new program work properly, will the housing fail and your equipment flood, is the data you have good enough, is there enough for statistical analysis?
For me and a few others in that room watching these images widened our view again. Suddenly we regressed to kids looking in rock pools and we realised how lucky we were to live this life and to witness these things first hand.
This has been a long and intense cruise but I know those few hours will hold significant for me, a little reminder of why I do it.