CoCoHaCa Cruise Blog – Update

DAY THREE

Finn Ni Fhaolain

With all our coring completed successfully earlier in the week it was high def video time. With 6 scientists on board we work in shifts of two and hang out in the ROV Shack with the ROV guys (singing “ROV Shack” to the tune of “Love Shack”), logging CTDs, taking video, snapping stills and logging the different species, substrates and sediments that we see. Since we’re generating so many hours of video footage it’s really important to note different interesting features and their time stamp and lat and long locations so it’s easier in the future for other scientists to work with. Last night we had a brief pause in work as a gale force 8 wind caught us in a 3 meter swell. But the bridge crew kindly angled the ship away from the worst of it.

The down time was spent drinking tea, eating chocolate and swapping sea going stories and hearing about the worst weather everyone has been out in. I’m currently writing, sitting on the floor of the conference room as we brought all the electronics down off the table in case they went flying when the ship would roll. There was a lot of laughing, so no time for cabin fever to set in. Being far too easily amused I thought it was great to see water flowing sideways out of the taps when the ship would roll. An absolute highlight of the trip so far was getting to see a pod of pilot whales off the stern just before sunset last night (we had been watching waves splash across the deck). The biologists among us we delighted to see our “first bit of blubber” on the trip.

DAY FOUR

Today we were mostly seeing non-reef areas on our video log but saw some interesting species like rabbit fish and some sharks. While it isn’t quite as exciting to watch areas of sand, it is important to record which areas have life coral, dead coral and just sand. By knowing where the coral is, isn’t and where it used to be (eroded coral framework with no live coral) it can help to build up an understanding of what environmental factors – e.g. slope, direction, current flow, sedimentation level, temperature etc – affect the “start up” and “shut down” of cold water coral mounds.

DAY FIVE

Absolutely fantastic day today, a real Sunday buzz going on. Very interesting coral mounds with massive cliff faces covered in live corals hosting a plethora of other species – octopuses, glass sponges, sharks, rabbit fish, sea pens, crinoids, tube worms.

After lunch we saw perhaps 4 pods and nearly 50 pilot whales including calves! Even the toughest among us were reduced to hollering “look at the baby whales” in delight on seeing the tiny tail flukes and little heads spyhopping. They stayed with the ship for quite some time and everyone came out for a gander.

To top off a great day Decco & Billy whipped up some amazing steaks (probably one of the best I’ve ever had) with all the trimmings and then the secret stash of chocolate was cracked out for the evening shift in the ROV shack. Needless to say moral is high!

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