Views from the ocean floor: QuERCi update 5

Niamh Connolly, 3rd Year Earth Science, BSc, UCC.

Hi again from the Celtic Explorer! Here is another update on the adventures unfolding so far. It was a misty start to the morning with winds picking up creating a slight swell, nonetheless, it didn’t dampen our spirits and conditions remain comfortable!

An air of excitement surrounds the ship as we continue to gather more incredible data! Working tirelessly, the team has managed to create the beginnings of a mosaic map using ROV multibeam bathymetric data obtained yesterday.

ROV obtained multibeam topographic map showing the profusion of Moira Mounds in this area, more than known before

ROV obtained multibeam topographic map showing the profusion of Moira Mounds in this area, more than known before

One of the Moira Mounds, the Piddington Mound, was meticulously scanned along 50 lines of overlapping high definition video. This will then be mosaiced and drapped over the topography to produce a virtual 3D mound 40m across which can be zoomed in on to a cm resolution.

The ROV now travels at 0.5 m above the seabed for a exploration dive with cameras forward facing exploring all the over mounds, which means our biologists are very excited as we can start sampling too! It’s incredible to see the amount of life covering the seafloor even at depths of 945 m; it’s still teeming with life! Even more exciting is the fact that we were lucky enough to be the first people ever to see it!

 The ROVs robotic arm collect an Antipatharian (black coral) Stichopathy sp. from one of the Moira Mounds. Also visible are white glass sponges, Madrepora oculata (calcareous coral) and (bottom right) an octocoral (Alcyonacea)

The ROVs robotic arm collect an Antipatharian (black coral) Stichopathy sp. from one of the Moira Mounds. Also visible are white glass sponges, Madrepora oculata (calcareous coral) and (bottom right) an octocoral (Alcyonacea)

Fitted with robotic arms, the ROV is readily equipped for collecting pieces of coral, sponges, crinoids and an abundance of other organisms needed for investigation, analysis and identification.

Manipulating the ROV is slow and careful work, but well worth the effort in collecting amazing samples and also doing as little damage to these habitats as possible. This will hopefully allow us to better understand environmental and ecosystem interactions of these complex systems. As the deep sea is so poor studied the chance of finding new species is a distinct possibility! Exciting stuff!

Here’s a stingray

Here’s a stingray

 

The ROV securing a sample of coral rubble with an octocoral attached in collection boxes. The large bolder is colonised by large barnacles. Laser dots are 11cm apart. The boulder fell to the seabed from a melting iceberg over 10,000 years ago.

The ROV securing a sample of coral rubble with an octocoral attached in collection boxes. The large bolder is colonised by large barnacles. Laser dots are 11cm apart. The boulder fell to the seabed from a melting iceberg over 10,000 years ago.

Here is a quick snapshot of some of the incredible scenes from the seafloor and these cold-water coral carbonate mounds capturing a dynamic environment that is constantly changing!

A view over the top of a small carbonate mound showing Madrepora oculate and Lophelia pertusa calcareous corals, white glass sponges and yellow octocorals

A view over the top of a small carbonate mound showing Madrepora oculate and Lophelia pertusa calcareous corals, white glass sponges and yellow octocorals

Close up view of a coral framework (Lophelia pertusa). Note the shrimp bottom left, barnacles top right and a sneeky crabs claw upper left. Red laser dots 11cm apart.

Close up view of a coral framework (Lophelia pertusa). Note the shrimp bottom left, barnacles top right and a sneeky crabs claw upper left. Red laser dots 11cm apart.

The thick density of the coral framework allows it to trap sediment and provides an environment for other corals and sponges to inhabit, among other organisms.

A range of living/dead coral (Lophelia pertusa and Madrepora oculata) with sponges and a beautiful orange sea anenome in their habitat

A range of living/dead coral (Lophelia pertusa and Madrepora oculata) with sponges and a beautiful orange sea anenome in their habitat

Interactions between different species: a Gorgonocephalus climbing on an Alcyonacea octocoral coral.

Interactions between different species: a Gorgonocephalus climbing on an Alcyonacea octocoral coral.

We will shortly begin our transit to the next exciting location; the submarine canyons of the Porcupine Bank, where more wonders need to be discovered! Can’t wait!

 

 

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