Office of National Marine Sanctuaries

Every day, millions of shipping containers crisscross the world’s oceans. But what happens to the ones that get lost along the way?

From Dec. 11-16, 2013, scientists at Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary worked to answer that question — and many others about the deep ocean — on a joint research expedition with MBARI, the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute. On board the MBARI research vessel Western Flyer, the team checked in on a shipping container that sank in more than 4,000 feet of water in 2004, using an underwater robot nicknamed “Doc Ricketts” to capture images and samples that will help us understand how these lost containers impact deep-sea ecosystems.

That was just one piece of the fascinating six-day mission, however. The entire expedition, complete with photographs from some of the deepest parts of Monterey Bay, was captured in wonderful detail by sanctuary research specialist Chad King.

Check out all of Chad’s mission logs below, and visit http://montereybay.noaa.gov and http://sanctuarysimon.org for more great marine science!

Day 1 – December 11, 2013: Setting Sail for Science

The departure (and arrival) of our research boat, the R/V Western Flyer, is at the mercy of the tides, as there needs to be an ample depth of water at the mouth of Moss Landing harbor for the vessel to make safe passage above the muddy bottom. We embarked under an early golden sunrise warming up a rather frigid morning, ready to begin our day of research, and were greeted by a feeding frenzy of sea lions and humpback whales within a few miles of the harbor...

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The robotic arm of the ROV “Doc Ricketts” pushes a core into the muddy seafloor to collect sediment for the small worms and crustaceans that live there. Many of these cores were collected today, along with a few “fragile urchins” (small pink, round objects in the image).


Getting Underway

As is tradition, and a requirement with these cruises, our ears were greeted by a blasting alarm bell, notifying us that the safety drill was starting. The science crew went to their bunks to retrieve their “gumby suits,” which are large red survival suits, and gathered in the wet lab. The second mate reviewed all safety guidelines, and ship protocol that all crew and passengers are expected to follow.

On the way to the first dive location, we stopped to collect a sediment trap that had been anchored to the seafloor at a depth of 1,200 meters in Monterey Canyon for the past six months. An acoustic trigger released the trap from its heavy weight and it floated to the surface, but there was some concern when 10 minutes passed with no sign of it.
When the ship turned in a half-circle, we realized that the floats had initially appeared within the stark glare of the sun on the surface of the ocean; in other words, it was invisible to us. The crew performed a technically flawless maneuver to retrieve the float and sediment trap, and secured it to the aft deck before we proceeded to the sea urchin study site.


Searchin’ for Urchins

What’s exciting for the sanctuary is where this urchin study site is located; it’s on the edge of a Sanctuary Ecologically Significant Area, or SESA. These special areas encompass remarkable or sensitive marine habitats, communities and ecological processes. They will be focal areas for facilitating research to better understand natural and human-caused variation in sanctuary natural resources. SESAs are not currently part of Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary regulations, yet may be used as a resource management tool. The research conducted within SESAs will enhance our understanding of these special places with the sanctuary, and will help detect any changes over time.


The control room of the R/V Western Flyer includes many large high-definition television screens that broadcast a live image from the seafloor. The ROV pilot and robotic arm operator are seated to the left. The “science chair” is in the middle, guiding operations, while the navigator and video annotator are to the right.

This site is one of three sea urchin study sites that were set up about two years ago. At that time, MBARI collected a number of fragile sea urchins (Strongylocentrotus fragilis) at a depth of 600 meters (the middle of their depth range) and placed them in mesh cages on the seabed at three depths (200, 600, and 1,000 meters). MBARI placed six cages at each depth, with three of them containing 15 urchins each and the other three empty.

Some of these urchins were kept in an aquarium that had calcein in the seawater. Calcein is a fluorescent dye that has been used to add a fluorescent 'marker' (a fluorescent band, for example) to the skeletal structure of other animals, to help understand their rates of growth. Along with growth rates, Dr. Jim Barry, who directs this research for MBARI, would like to determine the thresholds for life and reproduction in these urchins. Variables that he can manipulate in either the field or laboratory include pH (the acidity of the water), oxygen levels, depth, food and more.
Why are we doing all of this? In a nutshell, we want to understand what effects these urchins have on the local ecosystem.


The “Doc” Is In

To accomplish tasks like collecting sediment samples and urchins from 600 meters below the surface, MBARI uses a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) nicknamed “Doc Ricketts” after the character in John Steinbeck’s “Cannery Row” (based on real-life marine biologist Ed Ricketts). This incredibly sophisticated piece of technology is outfitted with several high-definition cameras, thrusters, high-intensity lights, a suction sampler, water sample bottles and a myriad of other sensors and features.

However, it’s the ROV’s human-controlled robotic arm that makes this tool so versatile. Its mechanical pincers can pick up delicate objects, grasp sediment push cores, hold the suction sampler, and even tie knots! The capability of this arm is only limited by the ingenuity and skill of the crew of the Western Flyer.

Sediment samples, or “push cores” being transported from the just-recovered ROV, “Doc Ricketts.” These cores were then processed in the science wet lab.


Down to Business

The first dive went very well. We finished detailed video surveys and collected 30 sediment “push cores” from “control” sites that were close to the cages that are at depth of 200 meters. Due to the fact that ROV’s “trunk” (really, it’s a shelf or porch on a slideable tray in the front of the ROV) doesn’t have enough room to carry more than 30 cores, we had to make two separate dives.

On dive two, we collected urchins and other macrofauna from three cages, again at the 200 meter depth, as well as many sediment push cores from each cage. We also collected animals from inside the two cages with no urchins. The ROV was back at the surface by about 5:30 p.m., carrying samples, push cores, and the cages from the completed experiments. After a quick dinner, we set out to process all of the samples. Everyone worked hard to subsample the sediment cores, and sieve the sediment to separate the mud from animals. With lots of teamwork, we finished in just a couple of hours, processing 60 cores, and preserving a number of smaller urchins, anemones, and other fauna we had collected. We’ll return here in a couple days to continue this work.


MBNMS scientists Dr. Andrew DeVogelaere and Oren Frey sieve mud to preserve animals and other larger particles.

Tomorrow we plan to re-visit the lost shipping container that we first visited in March of 2011. We’re excited about observing any potential changes in the container’s state, both its physical condition, but also any changes to the macrofaunal community adhered to and living around the container. We will also collect sediment samples to test for presence of heavy metals that come from the toxic marine paint that is slowly chipping and peeling off the container.
- Chad King


Day 2 – December 12, 2013: First Contact

The ROV was launched at 6:30 a.m. this morning, but it took almost an hour for it to descend to the shipping container's depth of 1,280 meters, or more than 4,200 feet deep. That's the equivalent of 13 football fields, almost three times the height of the Empire State Building! What's even more incredible is that this is actually pretty shallow for Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, which reaches depths of more than 13,000 feet - more than three times as deep as our destination today...

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The team conducted two extremely successful ROV dives to the lost shipping container (above) today. Sediment and animal samples were collected on and around the container, up to 500 meters away.

Exploring the Neighborhood

Upon “touch down” on the seafloor, the pilot slowly navigated the ROV “Doc Ricketts” toward the container, which appeared as a strikingly contrasting bright rectangle against the dull blacks of the ROV’s radar sweep. As the crimson hue of the container’s paint came into sight, I was reminded of the fact that (by some estimates) as many as 10,000 of these are lost at sea every year!

It’s a mind-boggling statistic, but only a small part of the worldwide problem known as “marine debris.” Whether it’s as large as this container or smaller than a soda can, any garbage that ends up in the ocean can adversely affect marine ecosystems. Many of us are not aware of marine debris because we don’t see it, but I’m hopeful that research like this will help bring some light to the issue and create change.

After the initial approach to the container, we took time to stop and smell the roses, or in this case, watch the animals sway in the moderate current (that won’t be on a greeting card anytime soon). We needed high-quality video clips of the container to determine the state of its general condition — what the current biological “neighborhood” looks like, so to speak. By comparing photos from 2004, 2011 and today, we can begin to put together a timeline of which creatures have settled on the container over time, and in what order. So, we took our time to film every side of the container, stopping occasionally to get close-ups. We often got lost in the beautiful diversity of even the tiniest colorful individual among a sea of whimsical creatures.

 

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Close-up photos of some of the many colorful and diverse creatures found on the container. Today’s work should help answer questions about any toxic effects from the container, and how the community living on and near the container has changed.

 

After many laps of video surveys around the container, we began doing “transects” back and forth, filming the seafloor in a straight line from about a meter away. Since we can identify and count the animals within a known linear distance, it lets us calculate densities, or the average number of animals per unit of area. These numbers will help determine if the container is having an effect on the types of animals and their densities around the container, as compared with “control” or normal levels, as far away as 500 meters from the container.

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We ran many transects near and far from the shipping container. The two red dots are lasers, set at 20 centimeters apart, which provide us with an accurate way of measuring things, like this deep-sea skate (Bathyraja abyssicola).

 

First Impressions

Our initial impressions are that the container has more and new life growing on it than it did in 2011. The container is also showing signs of rust where the paint has peeled away. It also appears that white bacterial mats are growing around areas that we suppose water is coming out of the container. Since many colonies of bacteria dine on sulfides, we are curious if sulfide compounds are leaching out of the container, which apparently contains 1,200 steel-belted Michelin tires. The original rumor was that the container was full of expensive French wine. If that were true, perhaps we would have opened the doors today!

Understanding the potential toxic effects from the container’s paint, which is slowly peeling and chipping away, is another priority of this mission. Sediment cores were taken right under and around the container and as far as 500 meters away, 48 samples in total. Once these samples came to the surface, the science team quickly preserved the sediment for heavy metal analyses to be performed at a later date.

Analyses from 2011 indicated the presence of heavy metals closer to the container. Since these heavy metals may have an effect on life on and around the container, we also collected animals from the container itself, close to the container, and far away. Samples primarily consisted of the snail Neptune sp. and their egg stalks, but also included anemones and scallops. These animals will also be analyzed for heavy metal content within their tissue.

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The robotic arm of the ROV “Doc Ricketts” uses a “push core” to sample sediment from underneath the shipping container as a large crab observes. A large flatfish is in the back right, and the empty snail shells belong to the genus Neptunea.

A Successful Start

What a day! All in all, we accomplished everything we set out to do, and hopefully today will help answer: 1) How has the biological community changed on the container? 2) Are there heavy metals present in sediment near the container? and 3) Are there heavy metals present in animals living on or near the container?

Anything that could go wrong didn’t go wrong. There were no major mechanical problems or equipment failures, no lost samples, flat and calm seas with sunny and clear skies. It’s one of those rare moments when technology and Mother Nature call a truce on a few hopeful humans.

Let’s hope the truce still stands tomorrow.

- Chad King

 


Day 3 – December 13, 2013: The Adventure Continues

For the second day in a row, MBARI's tireless crew of professionals launched the ROV at 0630 sharp, while most of the science team were wiping their eyes from slumber as we trickled into the control room, caffeine in hand. Back to work...


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MBARI ROV pilots (top left) deftly use the robotic arm (top right, bottom left) like an extension of their own limbs. These talented professionals can scoop up fragile creatures or crush rocks. The claws can finesse rope through cages, tie them off, pick up and retrieve sediment cores, and perform myriad other tasks at depths well beyond the limits of scuba divers.

 

Back to Business

All three of today's dives continued the collection of urchins and sediment push cores inside and outside of cages that we started on day 1 of this cruise. Dr. Jim Barry and his team placed these cages in September 2011 to determine if urchins have any effect on the local ecological community. You can read more about the background Dr. Barry's experiment from his day 1 cruise log on MBARI's website.

During transit to the seafloor and back, we have lots of time to encounter creatures that live in the mid-water zone. By volume, this is the largest habitat on Earth! Often we encounter bizarre, strange, or rare creatures, and MBARI has made numerous discoveries within this vast area. We typically encounter many gelatinous animals, including jellyfish, ctenophores, and siphonophores, as well as animals that have a little more substance to their form, such as squid (Humboldt and market) and fish.


Dr. Jim Barry (MBARI) retrieves macrofauna specimens from the ROV's "biobox." Specimens include primarily the Fragile urchin (Strongylocentrotus fragilis), but also included sea cucumbers, snails, and crustaceans. These animals were preserved for future analyses.

Today, we encountered a massive school of hake around 300 meters, probably attracted by the lights. One individual even got stuck headfirst into one of our sediment core buckets. It wasn't physically restrained, but it couldn't figure out how to simply back out of the container. Don't worry - the ROV pilots made sure that it didn't ride to the surface. It's back home with its own kind.


Doing the Dirty Work

Once the ROV was back onboard after each of the three dives, MBNMS scientists went to work, donning thick lab coats and latex gloves to process sediment samples. Tasks included sieving mud and preserving the macrofauna (tiny animals that live within the sediment), preserving samples of mud to conduct carbon-hydrogen-oxygen (CHN) analyses, and of course, washing the dishes to help prep the push cores for the next dive. It's not all glamour work!


MBNMS and MBARI scientists process sediment cores to preserve the animals living in the top few centimeters of the seafloor.

Many of the images captured on this cruise will be available for free (non-commercial use only!) from SIMoN’s extensive photo library. There are currently more than 4,300 images of 900-plus species that have been observed in the sanctuary. Many other images document human interactions with the ocean, beautiful landscapes and seascapes, and past important sanctuary events. Many of these photos are also available in our convenient iOS app, “SeaPhoto,” which is available for free from Apple’s App Store.


A magnificent sunset bid farewell to a very successful day 3 on the RV Western Flyer.

We're halfway done with this expedition, and we have many exciting sites yet to visit. Tomorrow, we are going deep - very deep. Come back and find out how deep!

- Chad King

Day 4 – December 14, 2013: Crabs, Carbon, Corn and Cups

The weather has been excellent for the first three days of this trip, but overnight, the winds kicked up quite a bit, rocking the ship more than a few degrees to each side, which made sleep difficult. At least I remembered to turn on the heater in my room to avoid a frigid morning...


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Dr. Jim Barry (MBARI) has a novel idea: one way to sequester, or trap, a source of CO2 might include sinking sources of cellulose that are normally burned on land, like this corn bale.


Crabby Test Subjects

After an early morning "jigging" for Humboldt squid with a Hopkins Marine Station (Stanford University) Ph.D. student and my Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary colleagues, the first order of business was to retrieve an instrument called a "benthic respirometer." This car-sized contraption was placed at a mind-boggling depth of 10,500 feet (3,200 meters) just two months ago by MBARI's Dr. Jim Barry.

In October, galtheid crabs (squat lobsters) were placed into respiration chambers by the ROV. Every four hours, the oxygen levels are dropped at varying rates before being flushed with fresh seawater. These numerous intervals give an average respiration rate for the crabs, which served as a baseline for the addition of seawater with a higher than normal amount of carbon dioxide (CO2), which was pumped from bags on the respirometer.

shipping container
The benthic respirometer sitting on the aft deck after it surfaced from 10,500 feet. The cylinders on the bottom are the respiration chambers that contained the galtheid crabs. The red box contained the bags of seawater enriched with CO2.

This experiment tested the crabs’ tolerance to high CO2 levels, extrapolating what is currently taking place in the world’s oceans. Each year, about 1/4th of our CO2 emissions are absorbed through the sea surface.  That extra CO2 reacts with ocean waters to make the oceans more acidic. Deep-sea animals cannot tolerate a rapid rise in pH, and they will be among the first to suffer dire consequences if humans don’t take steps to abate CO2 emissions over the next few decades.


Corny Research

“Doc Ricketts” only dove once today, to a site where Dr. Barry sunk a large “corn bale” in 2009. A corn bale is what is left from a corn plant after the ear of corn is harvested. This cellulose material is bound into a large (4 x4x8’) bale and is normally burned for disposal. Of course, burning this material puts more CO2 into the atmosphere, so Dr. Barry had an intriguing thought. Since there are very few deep-sea animals that can digest cellulose, why not sink a large corn bale as a way to “sequester” CO2, or prevent it from ever entering the atmosphere or ocean chemistry? It may sound crazy, but any idea to stymie climate change is worthy of exploration.

This bale sat almost two miles below the ocean surface, so it took more than two hours for the ROV to reach bottom. The talented ROV pilots had a difficult mid-water current to deal with, which was pulling on the umbilical, or the line that connects the ROV to the R/V Western Flyer. While compensating for this “pull,” the pilots sampled sediment around the bale, collected some galtheid crabs that were crawling all over this bale, and used an instrument called the “hokey pokey” to measure oxygen levels outside and inside the corn bale.

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A galtheid crab sits on top of a corn bale, 10,500 feet deep.

According to Dr. Barry, these crabs actually can digest some of the corn bale, since their gut contains bacteria that produce cellulase, an enzyme that can break down cellulose. Now, while these crabs certainly aren’t adapted to corn bales thrown into the ocean by humans, there are occasional sources of cellulose, such as logs that were pushed out to sea by storms. That’s happened for millennia.


Crushed Cups

We almost forgot a tradition with these deep dives. Using Sharpies, visiting crew typically adorn styrofoam cups with names, designs, patterns, dates, etc. The incredible pressure more than 10,000 feet down crushed our cups to the size of a large thimble. It’s quite amazing to see the transformation, and it makes a nice gift or conversation piece for the office desk.

Once again, the day bid us adieu with another fiery sunset, followed by the first “green flash” that I have ever witnessed. Tomorrow, we explore a prominent submarine geologic feature called “Sur Ridge.”

— Chad

sunset
Yes, it's another photo of a sunset. They keep getting better, and besides, a "green flash" followed.

P.S.: “Popular Science” featured this expedition in its December 13 edition of PopSci.com.


 

DAY 5 – December 15, 2013: To Boldly Go…

While a typical day of diving with an ROV is exciting, most of the time there is a target, collections to take, measurements to make, and limited time to do it. This can put pressure on the scientists and crew, especially if weather or mechanical problems delay tasks. Today was not a typical day. Today, we explored…

crab and coral

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We had an incredible day of discovery at Sur Ridge, which included dense forests of deep-sea corals and sponges, cold seep clams, and even a baby vampire squid.


Wandering Around Manhattan in the Dark

Without the constraints of a “to-do” list, we made two dives on Sur Ridge, a moderate-sized bump on the seafloor, about 28 miles offshore of Point Sur, CA. There have only been a couple of dives on this feature by a geologist about 10 years ago, but not in this area. We were the first humans ever to see this part of the seafloor. This feature is about 11 miles long and 3 miles wide, or about the size of Manhattan Island.

Now, the ROV only can see about 15 feet wide and might travel only a mile in a day. Think about it. It’s as if someone lowered you by helicopter into Manhattan, in total darkness. You turn on your flashlight and go about a mile forward. Now, tell me you can surmise what the entire island looks like? Most likely you didn’t see Wall Street, or Madison Square Garden, Rockefeller Center, maybe not even Central Park or even a Chinese restaurant, yet those exist on Manhattan, and you would’ve never know it after even a few “dives.” This is why scientists need to conduct many, many dives in an area to even begin to have an idea of what the ecology might be like.


An Unexpected Treasure

Today was a perfect example of how different an area can be from one end to the other.

In 2006, MBNMS and MBARI made many dives on the Davidson Seamount, an extinct underwater volcano that last erupted 9 million years ago. Davidson is much, much larger than Sur Ridge at 26 miles long and 8 miles wide. Its elevation is comparable to the Sierra Nevada Mountains at 8,000 feet tall, yet its summit is still 4,000 feet below the surface. Beautiful, rare, and slow-growing corals were found all over the seamount, but primarily near the summit. Why?

Corals are suspension feeders; the colony uses its individual polyps to grab particles of food out of the water. Since higher water flow means more food, corals are found on peaks, ridges, and areas of sharp slope change, as water is generally flowing faster up these features, bringing food with it.

So, we targeted high slope and ridged areas in the northern part of Sur Ridge. Although we had high expectations for this dive, what we saw blew our socks off. Corals immediately appeared on the screen, and following the ridge up to the summit, the volcanic rock was just covered with individuals of the majestic Bubblegum coral that rivaled the size of those found on Davidson Seamount. The diversity and density far exceeded our collective predictions, and they were continuous up the side of the ridge, a 300 meter change in elevation!

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Large bubblegum corals growing on the northern side of Sur Ridge.

Everyone in the control room that wasn’t driving the ROV were either snapping photos, annotating the live map, taking digital frame grabs, or writing down data wildly. I think I saw a few people drool, too. It was observation like these that catalyzed the addition of the Davidson Seamount to the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary in 2009, which protects the seamount, and its long-lived corals, from being disturbed in any way.


The Surprises Keep Coming

One of the tough decisions with exploration is “where to go next?” Although we probably could’ve found more large and diverse corals in the northern section of Sur Ridge, the decision was made to pick up the ROV and travel about 6 miles south. Again, we targeted an area with the sharpest rise in elevation, in hopes the observations would be similar to dive one.

They were not.

We were presented with a rising landscape, but oddly, most of the rock seemed to be sedimentary, and not igneous like in dive one. We saw mudstone and other relatively fragile rock broken up into shards and clumps, collapsed downslope or below outcrops. Very little to no coral. Why? These long-lived, slow-growing corals need a solid substrate upon which to grow on, and fragile mudstone doesn’t suffice. Despite the few small corals we did see, the dive was still informative, maybe not as “sexy” as the prolific corals from dive one. Personally, I found the geology fascinating, and the sponge density was still quite high.

sedimentary rock
Sedimentary rock formations at Sur Ridge.


Conspicuous Clams

Funny how sometimes the mundane can surprise you. There was just about an hour left in the dive, cruising south along the top of the ridge, when Dr. Jim Barry noticed a small white oval shape in the corner of the screen. I happened to be operating the ROV camera at the time, so I panned and zoomed to the object in question, and it appeared to be a clamshell. What’s a clam doing on Sur Ridge?

Well, that’s the reason why Dr. Barry recognized that small object in a sea of small objects. He’s a bit of an expert on vesicomyid clams, which is a special family of clams that have formed a symbiotic relationship with chemosynthetic bacteria that live inside its gut. It’s a complex chain of events, but essentially, these bacteria convert sulfides into energy for the clam. These sulfides only come from three known sources in the ocean (thus far): cold seeps, hydrothermal vents, and whale falls. Cold seeps area areas where fluid methane escapes through fissures in the rock.

Bacteria living within the sediment at cold seeps or colonies that digest whale bones use methane as their energy source to convert sulfates into sulfides, which are then in turn used by the symbiotic bacteria. Symbiotic bacteria near hydrothermal vents, on the other hand, use hydrogen sulfide that is coming directly out of the vent. There are no hydrothermal vents on this part of the coast, and although there are clams on whale falls, they are of a different species. That means a cold seep was near, so the hunt was on.

clams
Vesicomyid clams half-buried within a "cold seep" on Sur Ridge.

Dr. Barry surmised that the clamshell just rolled downhill, and he was right, we traveled a bit up the slope and found several live clams half-buried in the sediment. The pilot then noticed four additional clusters of clams to the left, and it left Dr. Barry befuddled. He never would have expected cold seeps on this ridge. But, there they were, as plain as day. A somewhat giddy Dr. Barry requested a few clams be taken as samples so that he can verify their species, and there were several species within these clusters. This is a very exciting and important find.


One Last Treat

As our dive drew to a conclusion, it had one more spoil to throw our way, I noticed a small dark purple glob floating in the shadows and called it out. The ROV pilots oriented the vehicle in that direction to enable camera zoom. As I enlarged the creature, one pilot blurted out, “baby vamp!” Indeed, it was a juvenile vampire squid (Vampyroteuthis infernalis). No wonder these are made into stuffed animals.

vampire squid
A juvenile vampire squid (Vampyroteuthis infernalis) just a few meters above Sur Ridge.

Tomorrow is the last day of this extraordinary research cruise. Who knows what tomorrow will bring?

— Chad


 

Day 6 – December 16, 2013: Heading Home

We wrapped up this amazing six-day expedition today with our shallowest set of dives yet. The first dive was nearly aborted due to gusty 22-knot winds, but the weather eventually settled down and we were able to get back to work…

the science crew

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The science crew from left to right: front row: Hannah Rosen, Chad King, Erica Burton. Back row: Oren Frey, Kurt Buck, Chris Lovera, Dr. Jim Barry, Patrick Whaling, Dr. Andrew DeVogelaere. Not pictured: Josi Taylor.


Back to Business

Like days one and three, today’s goal was to collect sediment push cores, urchins and other macrofauna inside and outside of three cages, but this time from the 200 meter depth zone instead of the 600 or 1,000 meter zone. In fact, the ROV Doc Ricketts is not permitted to operate shallower than 200 meters. However, even that is still far beyond the limits of normal scuba diving. A total of 90 sediment push cores were collected (30 on each dive). In between each dive, the science crew got busy once again sieving the mud away from the sediment and animals for preservation to be identified and counted later.

Many animals were attracted to the cages, including spot prawns, octopuses, basket stars, sea stars, sea cucumbers, and several species of rockfishes. At one point, there was even competition between several octopuses and spot prawns for some urchin gonads that were spilled when an urchin was cracked open accidentally.

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A curious octopus oversees a push core sample.


Mission: Accomplished

We exceeded expectations for this six-day research cruise. We accomplished every goal set forth, further documented the state of a lost shipping container, explored and discovered a new area of dense forests of corals and sponges and cold seeps at Sur Ridge, and assisted Dr. Barry with his long-term deep-sea benthic ecology experiments. The weather cooperated, technology did not let us down, and the crew of Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute’s research vessel, Western Flyer, could not have been more professional, going out of their way to meet our every request and need.

We are set to pull into Moss Landing Harbor during high tide at 9:30 pm, so most of the crew will get home late tonight, but will be glad to sleep in our familiar beds.

photos of sunset
Believe it or not, these pictures were taken about 5 minutes apart. I thought it would be appropriate to share these pictures, as they control the tides that dictate our return through Moss Landing harbor.

Thanks for tuning in to our cruise log, and look for more information about this research trip in the near future! We’ll be releasing preliminary species lists, uploading pictures to our photo database and creating short videos, among other resources for the public. In the meantime, you can keep up with this project and general information about the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary at the following resources:

Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary
Sanctuary Integrated Monitoring Networklink leaves government web site
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Cheers!

— Chad King


 

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