Leg 2: February 17, 2012
Day 1: Finding squid at Cerralvo Bank
This morning the research vessel Western Flyer set sail from Puerto de Pichilingue, Mexico at 7:00 a.m. sharp with a fresh crew of scientific researchers aboard.
A six hour steam to our first dive site at Cerralvo Bank gave us plenty of time to practice safety drills, hold a science meeting, and get the remotely operated vehicle (ROV) Doc Ricketts ready to go. Leg two of this expedition will be very different than the first leg.
The focus of our research team, led by Steven Haddock, is learning more about organisms that live in the midwater zone, which lies between the surface waters and the seafloor and is the largest habitat on the planet. Steve studies the bioluminescence, biodiversity, and ecology of deep-sea and open-ocean gelatinous animals such as ctenophores, siphonophores, radiolarians, and medusae. Other scientists on the ship are interested in deep sea squid and other cephalopods.
One of the main research tools we will be using every day (weather permitting) is the ROV Doc Ricketts, which is equipped with a high definition video camera giving us a window into the deep sea, and several types of sampling devices allowing us to gently bring up samples from below.
Today’s dive (Dive #333 for this vehicle) was very successful and we managed to find some of the animals on our wish list right away. Several of the researchers are interested in deep-sea squid, and today’s samples included a Vampyroteuthis that was too big to fit in our sample container, MBARI’s first collection of a mature, male Planctoteuthis danae, plus a bizarre and potentially new species of squid.
In addition to the ROV observations and collections, several of the scientists will be getting wet and collecting organisms by blue-water scuba diving each morning. Evenings (and well into the night) will be spent trawling the water to depths of up to 2,000 meters, and finally, after the trawl net comes in (on nights we are not transiting to a new station), Henk-Jan Hoving will be hanging a camera overboard with a lighted lure and leaving it to take pictures all night. We will recover the camera first thing in the morning, just in time to launch the ROV again!