QuERCi Update 6: Taking a closer look

Keeping you up to date on the progress of the RV Celtic Explorer, the sea remains relatively calm. From sunrises to sunsets there are some spectacular scenes to be witnessed, and that’s just above the surface! Many more wonderful scenes have been discovered at deeper depths!

A sunset view from the bow of the ship

A sunset view from the bow of the ship

The transit to the Porcupine Bank Canyon went smoothly, thankfully, and the swell didn’t pick up as much as expected! Sunny skies now mean life on-board is quite good, with a tropical feeling and clear blue water in the Atlantic Ocean!!

Here are some of the samples collected by the ROV on the last dive and brought on to the ship for sampling and preservation, for further analysis once we reach the shore.

 

Collected samples of Lophelia pertusa (orange, LHS) and a Hydroid (RHS)

Collected samples of Lophelia pertusa (orange, LHS) and a Hydroid (RHS)

 

A crinoid being photographed before sampling and preservation

A crinoid being photographed before sampling and preservation

Following those exciting discoveries in the Moira Mounds we swiftly moved on to the next location; the Porcupine Bank Canyon. Here, the team has worked until all hours to collect the ship based and ROV multibeam data of the canyon, which is slow and tedious work but should produce incredible results!

The edge of the canyon starts at 700m water depth and then steeply sloping down to reach 4,700 m which is an incredible water depth and the deepest we have come across so far on this cruise! The Porcupine Bank Canyon measures 20km in width and 100km in length! This is one of the largest canyons in this region.

The data collected from the ROV multibeam is now being processed to produce an incredibly detailed map of this canyon which will hopefully reveal features we haven’t seen here yet! on the first run the multibeam on the ROV flies at 100m above the seabed, the second one is more detailed, running at 20m from the seafloor.

Map showing the study area of the Porcupine Bank Canyon

Map showing the study area of the Porcupine Bank Canyon

 

From there video footage will be gathered from the canyon and surrounding ridges, which are possibly scattered with coral carbonate mounds from the upwelling of colder water from depth. Again, this will be the first visual footage of this area and anticipation is building as we are excited to see if our suspicions are right! Hopefully we are!

Pilot whales investigating the Celtic Explorer on their travels!>

Pilot whales investigating the Celtic Explorer on their travels!

Amazingly, even with all that excitement we still managed to spot a pod of pilot whales investigating the ship, spy hopping and circling the vessel to get a good look! How lucky we are!

Niamh Connolly, 3rd Year, Bsc, UCC.

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