CD179: Deep-sea biology of the Portguese canyons


Daily diary

Sunday 30 April 2006

Veerle writes:

"Today was a fantastic day for science at sea : sunny and warm, calm weather, nearly no swell… So we started immediately after breakfast with a SHRIMP marathon! Nearly 6 hours we had the video system on the seabed. What we recorded varied again from mud to more muddy areas, but by the end we also saw stalked sponges, lots of holothurians (which made our chief scientist very happy), steep slopes and gullies (of interest to the geology delegation) and at the very end we saw several Xenophyophores, which are giant protozoans (single cells) that grow up to 20 cm in diameter and are of great interest to Xana.

After that we from the dayteam (i.e. Sarah, John and me, because we are leaving tomorrow) were taken on a tour in the engine room. We first got a bit of an introduction and were handed over little maps of the engine room. That looked a bit funny, but actually it proved to be very useful! Once we were down there, there was a lot of noise. We were wearing proper ear protection (as the engineers normally do), and hence communication was limited to hand signals and pointing to machinery and to the little map. But the entire instrumentation was very impressive!

Veerle gets a tour of the ship's engine room as a special treat on her last day on board

Later on in the afternoon we went on for some CTD and SAPS profiling, and tonight there will be a last SHRIMP line before we go into port. While waiting for the SAPS to go down and pump its litres of water, we also split the last piston core that came up last night. It was a little jewel again, full of turbidites, and with a lot of organic matter, because it was taken at shallower depth (2500 m), and hence closer to land i.e. closer to the sources of organic input.

In the evening we took a group picture on the aft deck, and we had a presentation on Marine GIS (Marine Geographical Information Systems). This is an interactive database for all the geographical information we use (station positions, maps of the bathymetry and TOBI,…). It allows us to spatially integrate all our knowledge, and to make maps of both the existing and newly acquired data, which can help us to decide better on where to take further samples or to understand better what processes are governing the canyon systems.

Well, I have to say, it’s a strange feeling… For some of us it was our last day on board. It’s been an interesting 2 weeks, and to my feeling, they were very successful. Although we sometimes had to change programme for the weather, we didn’t really have any downtime, which is remarkable in April in the North Atlantic. One generally cannot count on that!
Tomorrow we will sail into Lisbon and change place with some of our colleagues from NOCS and other institutes who will come on board for the second leg of the cruise. I never really left a cruise half-way, but other duties are calling me home. It’s a pity we have to leave the others, and that we have to leave the rest of the adventure…"

The GIS system

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April 2006
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