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Highlights from the cruise journal

RV G.O. Sars are leaving Bergen. The cruise has started! [5 June] Saturday June 5 the research vessel G.O. Sars left the harbour of Bergen at 12.10 AM, Norwegian time. Onboard is 30  scientists, including a Norwegian TV-documentary team and a painter. For one month they will conduct their investigations, filming and painting in the mid-Atlantic Ocean - see the photos of them leaving, or read their first cruise journal.

 

 

The G.O. Sars loaded with equipment as it leaves Bergen.[6 June] We are finally underway. After rounds of introductions among participants, the occasional trading of past adventure stories, the final loading of equipment, and extensive safety demonstrations, the ship was fuelled and we headed on a westerly course toward the Mid Atlantic Ridge. We have approximately 60 hours of steaming before we reach the Mid Atlantic Ridge and the first sampling station. The marine mammal observers have finished preparations of their observing platform and will be scanning the horizon for birds and whales during light hours. ~ read today's cruise journal

 

Work on trawl

[7 June] G. O. Sars has now left the shelf region, and are out in the open ocean west of the Faroe Islands. The time onboard is spent preparing procedures and getting equipment ready for tomorrow’s arrival at the first sampling station. ~ read today's cruise journal

 

 

Recovery of German current meter mooring

[8 June] RV G.O. Sars is steaming through the deep Iceland Basin and we will be on our first full station by midnight. An emergency call from Scientists at Kiel requesting that we search for a current meter array that had surfaced prematurely, resulted in three hours spent on searching before locating it and bringing it aboard. ~ read today's cruise journal

 

Mooring. Photo: Marc Picheral

[9 June]  After days of steaming and expectations rising hour by hour, we finally reached our first station during the early mornings hours. Station work was started by lowering an echosounder to a thousand metres depth. 
~ read today's cruise journal

 

 

Teuthowenia-megalops

[10 June]  The whole group of scientists was busy all night, regardless of their watch, because nobody wanted to miss the opportunity to see what was there and to help with processing the samples. The most interesting was a squid represented by both paralarvae and an adult. In many species of squids adults are rarely captured.
~ read today's cruise journal


 

Pilot whales

[11 June] Today’s station is located on the Reykjanes Ridge. The visibility and weather conditions were favourable for marine mammal and seabird observations. The whale observations were quite exciting. Several marine mammal species including fin whales, sei whales, sperm whales, pilot whales and white-sided dolphins were spotted.
~ read today's cruise journal

Underwater Video Profiler (UVP)

[12 June] Through the night and until noon we steamed from the northern box towards the third station. Station operations began about noon with the deployment of the Åkra trawl. Another tow with the Macrozooplankton trawl, was started in the evening, and after that the Underwater Video Profiler (UVP) was deployed (photo).
~ read today's cruise journal


 

Pelagic shrimps

[13 June] One of the today’s highlights was the deployment of the large pelagic “Egersund trawl” (75 m wide). The trawl was towed at depths ranging from 1500 to 1200 meters. The scientists were excited by the large catch, which had a high diversity of species. After several hours of identification, and measurements, they can report 24 fish species, 7 species of squids and 7 different species of pelagic shrimps from this single haul. A 44 cm long specimen of the Black dragonfish (Trigonolampa miriceps) was caught, which is the largest ever registered. ~ read today's cruise journal - with video!

 

[14 June] Last nights sampling on station 4 on top of the Reykjanes Ridge continued until 8 in the morning after which 'GO Sars' continued south-westward towards station 5 west of the ridge, while the scientists continued processing the catches through the day. The samples from the trawl indicated a shift in the species composition from the more northern and polar species found at earlier stations towards more southern Atlantic species. ~ read today's cruise journal 

 

Sperm whale

[15 June] We accumulate an array of data day by day that gradually improves our knowledge about the ecosystem along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge (MAR). The hydro-acoustic system onboard G.O. Sars provides us with a broad view of marine life through five acoustic frequencies (18-200 kHz). Today there have been vigorous discussions among scientists working on trawl catches, acoustics and marine mammals / seabirds. A key ecological question is the connection between the acoustic layers seen on the echosounders, and the species and groups of species identified in the trawl catches as well as surface sightings of whales and dolphins. ~ read today's cruise journal 

 

Cabin onboard RV G.O. Sars

[16 June] Ever wondered what it is like to be on a research survey cruise?  We thought we would give you a glimpse of everyday life as a scientist on board the G. O. Sars Mar-Eco cruise 2004.  ~ read today's cruise journal 

 

 

The Charlie-Gibbs Fracture Zone

[17 June] Today we did something totally different and deployed an “acoustic” lander. This piece of equipment is designed to float above the sea bottom tethered to some large weights (old train wheels), and to look towards the surface with a SIMRAD echosounder similar to that which looks down from the ship’s hull. The plan is to leave the lander recording data until the second leg of the cruise, when it will be recovered and we will be able to see the data it has collected.  ~ read today's cruise journal 
~ see today's videos: (from the ROV deployment + a 3D-visualisation of the Charlie-Gibbs Fractur Zone, where RV G.O. Sars is now)

 

[18 June] We’re now close to the sites visited a year ago by the manned submersibles MIR-1 and MIR-2 operated from the Russian Academy of Sciences RV Akademik Mstislav Keldysh. We towed the biggest trawl, the Egersund Trawl, in the northern channel of the Charlie-Gibbs Fracture Zone at a depth of about 2000m. The mouth opening of this trawl is the size of a football field, and this is necessary to sample a large volume and to capture fast-moving animals. Spectacular big red shrimps occured in this catch.  
~ read today's cruise journal 
~ see the video: A 3D-visualisation of the Charlie-Gibbs Fractur Zone

 

Norman's smooth-head

[19 June] We are now west of London, and have reached the northern extension of the subpolar frontal zone. The highlight of today was a long tow with the Krill-Trawl to 3000m to sample the deep pelagic fauna close to the seafloor. The deepest layer of the haul, from 3000 to 2000 m depth, yielded a mixture of rare fishes, shrimps and medusae. The most conspicuous catch was a specimen of Norman's smooth-head (Mirognathus normani) in very good condition. This very rare fish is previously known from only two Atlantic locations southwest of Iceland and off western Portugal. Nothing is known about its biology or life-history.    ~ read today's cruise journal 

 

[20 June] Having reached the midpoint of our journey, we have begun a preliminary synthesis of the some of the data collected thus far. One of the unique aspects of this cruise is the manner of the on-board trawl sample processing. It is standard procedure on most deep-pelagic trawling surveys to preserve catches whole, then analyze the material later in lab.    
~ read today's cruise journal 

 

Jellyfish obeserved by the UVP

[21 June] We are now at our last station in the Charlie-Gibbs Fracture Zone and will continue our voyage southwards. At this station we caught a large number of juvenile squid Gonathus sp. Ørnulf Opdahl, the artist onboard, has already painted these and other beautiful animals. He tells us that he has painted a total of 107 water colour paintings so far on this trip. He seems to find a lot of inspiration. Images from the UVP (Underwater Video Profiler) reveal mostly small plankton organisms and marine snow (aggregates of organic particles) as it profiles the water column. Today, however, a beautiful jellyfish, Atolla, was observed, drifting along at a depth of 950 meter (see picture).  ~ read today's cruise journal 

  

Aglantha ROV coming back from deep waters

[22 June] The Aglantha ROV (Remoted Operated Vehicle) was put out for the second inspection dive of the cruise. After struggling against deep currents, using the high quality positioning system of the RV G.O. Sars and the sonar of the ROV, we found the acoustic lander that hade been deployed at 890m. While surveying the sea-floor around the mooring, we saw some fascinating images of the living world in the deep ocean which is shown in a video-clip. . 
~ read today's cruise journal
~ see today's video

 

Deep-water ribbonworm (Nemertea)

[23 June] When a trawl or net comes onboard, scientists gather on the trawl deck, curious about the content of the catch. You may wonder what they are searching for in these nets. Bizarre species from the deep, or possibly even “new” previously unknown species would certainly be highlights of the day. 
~ read today's cruise journal

 

 

photophores on the head and arms of the squid Histioteuthis reversa

[24 June] G.O. Sars cruise has passed the Sub-Polar front. Entering the warmer water masses also introduced four new cephalopod species. Of these the squid (Histioteuthis reversa) was particularly stunning, being covered with rows of brilliant photophores. The photophores on this species are not simple bulb-like light-emitters, but are equipped with reflectors and slits to regulate the color and angle of light (see photo).  
~ read today's cruise journal

 

Angler fish (Melaocetus johnsoni)

[25 June] The last journey of the Anglerfish Big Mouth Billy:  Imagine yourself as the deep dwelling anglerfish Big Mouth Billy, swimming and eating at 3000 m depth in the blue ocean along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge far away from any dry land. Down here it is pitch dark, cold, neither Internet connection nor any European championship in football, and you experience an incredible pressure squeezing on your shoulders due to the large depth. Suddenly you realise a huge Egersund trawl entirely surrounds you. Unfortunately, you are stuck inside the trawl net, feel scared and cannot escape...   ~ read today's cruise journal

 

1000 miles from almost everywhere. [26 June] Have you ever been 1000 miles from everywhere?  We were. Last night at 21:30 UTC, Martin Dahl an instrument specialist, noticed we were getting our correction to the digital global positioning system (GPS) from a station that was 1000 nautical miles away (1 nautical mile = 1.852 kilometers).  We found that the vessel (location: 47o 14.8’ N, 28 o 39.2’ W) was approximately 1000 nautical miles from Portugal, Spain, France, the UK, Iceland, Greenland, and the coasts of Newfoundland and Nova Scotia in Canada.  The Azores Islands were approximately 500 nautical miles to our south and that is where we are headed.  ~ read today's cruise journal

 

A fin whale. Photo: Henrik SKov

[27 June] The longest stretch of steaming since we arrived at the MAR has brought us close to the Portuguese 200 mile zone. During steaming, repeated whale sightings were made. The most unusual sighting was of two blue whales, while the most remarkable encounter was with three fin whales, foraging on plankton at the surface. By a very good piece of manoeuvring, the officers on the bridge were able to sneak G.O. Sars into the midst of this assemblage, giving us all a great experience (see picture) and the whale scientists an opportunity for tagging their targets (which regretfully failed on this occasion). 
~ read today's cruise journal

 

A peculiar squid photographed in the trawl aquarium

[28June] During the last week, entering progressively warmer and more saline surface waters,  we have seen evidence of a gradual changeover in the species composition of the fauna with newly encountered species becoming a more important component of the fauna and formerly common species becoming rare or absent. We were not prepared for the dramatic changes we saw in our large midwater trawl taken last night. For example within the cephalopods (squid and octopods), a group that some of us consider the most spectacular and most beautiful members of the fauna, we caught total of 54 individuals distributed among 22 species and 16 families. We are anxious for the next large trawl to see if the catch was just unusual or the harbinger of a consistent change in the fauna.
~ read today's cruise journal

 

[29 June] The biological diversity in the area we are working in is high, and every trawl haul is an adventure. The day brought a variety of different catches and kept all people on board quite busy. A big surprise and definitely the event of the day was the occurrence of two big jelly-like pyrosomes in the catch. They can consist of thousands of small barrel shaped animals. Although the individual animals are small the communal animal can become quite large, with some up to 4 meters in length. The ones we caught weighed more than ten kilograms each and were several meters long, but so delicate that they broke into pieces when we carefully sorted them from the catch. Working in the fish lab, deep in the berth of the vessel, was mentally more demanding than before because the sun was shining all day long - and it did so for the first time during our cruise.
~ read today's cruise journal

 

Cleaning and desifection of the fish lab.[1 July]  A successful and exciting cruise (leg 1) is ending. In beautiful sunshine and calm weather we finished our last station and are now steaming towards Horta in the Azore Islands. Tomorrow we will arrive in Horta and put our feet on solid ground after 4 weeks at sea. While steaming, we are cleaning the laboratories (see picture), packing our equipment and making the vessel ready for the crew of leg 2. This is also the time to summarize the results and findings. Our data collections have ranged from oceanographic and acoustics, to various studies on organisms that range in size from microscopic plankton to large whales. Depths ranged from the surface to 3000 meters and extended  from the cold-water environment south of Iceland to the tropic environment north of the Azores.  ~ read today's cruise journal

[2 July]  This morning we saw land on the Azores (see picture) and at one o'clock ship time (11 o'clock local time) we entered the harbour in Horta. We look forward to starting our journey home and are very pleased with what we have achieved during the cruise. But we all realise that this is not the end, and that the success of the whole project is dependent on what comes after the cruise. What will follow now is an analysis of the data which we have collected. So we have a very stimulating time ahead of us and wish the participants on leg 2, who will carry on with the work started on Leg 1, all the best during their part of the survey. ~ read today's cruise journal

G. O. Sars and  MS Loran alongside in habour seen from the hills of the town of Horta.[3 July] A beautiful morning in Horta soon became hectic as participants packed and vacated their cabins to make the ship ready for Leg 2. Two MAR-ECO ships were now alongside, as MS Loran, a chartered Norwegian longliner had arrived the previous evening. A highlight of the morning was the visit by the scientific steering committee of the Census of Marine Life, the global programme of which MAR-ECO is one of several field projects. An important event of the afternoon was a scientific colloqium between the Leg 1 and Leg 2 participants, intended to share information and advice. Later Leg 2 participants got keys and cabins and settled into their floating home for the next month. A dinner for official guests, the CoML Steering Group, was hosted by MAR-ECO in the Hotel Horta.   ~ read today's cruise journal


Our painting on a wall in the harbour, and the artist, Anette Petersen [5 July]   "G. O. Sars" is alongside in Horta, Azores. Ship and scientific crew are changed (3 july). Committee meetings and status colloquium are arranged, and on Sunday (4 july) an open ship for locals, visiting guests and tourists. The harbour is full of transatlantic sailboats, and sailors come on board to have weather news for their passages. It is a tradition in Horta that all boats in port must have a painting done on the walls or pavements before they leave, or else it meens bad luck at sea. Of course we painted one. Everybody is eager to get to sea on the second leg. We only wait for the ROV--- We hope to sail late today or early tomorrow.  ~ read today's cruise journal

The group photo for Leg 2[6 July]   We left Horta this morning at around 2 am (Norwegian time) to sail to the first station which we should reach in 24 hours.  Expectations are running high and there have been many discussions about what unusual things we may see in the trawls, and lander and ROV images. Several groups of common dolphins were seen feeding this morning. However, the most exciting bit was still to come when suddenly two large Loggerhead turtles (60 cm) were seen from the front of the ship. Equipment is currently being readied for deployment.  Deep-sea trawler experts have discussed the best techniques to be employed to capture and prevent damage to the most interesting animals. Finally, the resident photographer, David Shale, famous for his work on the BBC's Blue Planet, managed to get all the scientists together for a group photo - a very difficult thing to do on a busy ship!   ~ read today's cruise journal


A deep sea octopod, one of the first animals captured on the second leg [7 July]   Today's absolute highlight must have been the first station of the second leg. A major feature of the second leg is direct underwater observations of living deep sea animals in their natural environment using cameras on board ROVs (remotely operated vehicles) and landers. Once the position was agreed, the ROBIO lander was launched into the deep by the light of the ship’s flood lights. Like all deep sea landers ROBIO free-falls to the sea floor, taking about 70 minutes for the journey in 2600m of water. ROBIO carries a digital camera, and sensors for current, depth, temperature and salinity, all of which are logged on an on board computer. MS Loran is working southeast of us, on the eastern flank of the mid-Atlantic Ridge, and have already finished a number of longline trials (...). On board the G.O.SARS the day ended as it began, mapping the sea floor. This really is exploring, there is no point in us capturing or observing animals unless we know where the observations came from.  We are laying the foundations for future voyagers to this fascinating part of the ocean.    ~ read today's cruise journal

 

A Bathysaurus! [8 July] We are currently working stations on the western flank of the mid-Atlantic Ridge. (...) the trawl equipped with an additional plankton net on top and a video camera in the opening has been launched. In the trawl yesterday (approx. 3000m) and in todays trawl at around 2000m, the catch exceeded all our expectations: a great number and diversity of fishes. Fish biologists and taxonomists as well as our benthos specialist were very busy till late night sorting and identifying the species, taking sub-samples and transferring the data into the MAR-ECO database. In concert with the results from the collections in the open water during the first leg of this cruise, the samples from the bottom trawl along the ridge will provide us interesting insights into the role of the ridge itself as providing a suitable habitat for a diversity of mobile and sedentary fauna. The species identity shall be clarified during further taxonomic work at the Bergen Museum where all the collected material will be stored after this cruise.  ~ read today's cruise journal


 

Photo lander. Each arm of the cross is 1 metre long. [9 July] This has been a great new day at the MAR with some incredible events. A blue whale and at least one sea turtle were seen wandering around. ROBIO, the photo-lander was deployed yesterday but the images it captured were finally seen today. The most conspicuous were a big ray and the "ghost shark" Hydrolagus pallidus, seen in the photograph close to lander which was lying at around 2000 metres deep. A great part of the day was dedicated to the deployment of the ROV AGLANTA. The operation was promising. During the slow descent to the sea bottom through the dark sea slightly illuminated by the AGLANTA lights, mesopelagic fauna were observed. At 1300 metres depth a dark-brown shark was seen swimming. We saw the approach to the sea bottom as the ROV prepared to land among boulders. Then the unexpected happen. We lost vision. Communication was definitively lost...   ~ read more in today's cruise journal


 

Morning rendezvous. Photo: D. Shale.[10 July] Today was one of those days when only the calendar can remind you (after some brain efforts) which day of the week and date it is now. The day began with a night work on the trawl from the so far shallowest station (about 1700 m) on this leg. Of course, most of the expectations for today were about trawling in the deep axial part of the mid-Atlantic Ridge. Unfortunately, this trawl was unsuccessful, it came with the cod-end torn off. As the trawl video showed, the trawl most likely hit a rock outcrop on the mound that appeared suddenly toward the end of the tow path. The longliner MS Loran, operating in collaboration with us stopped by this morning, receiving important information on bottom structure before heading further north. It was a pleasant, but possibly awakening surprise (for those still in bed), as they passed us with the ship’s horn roaring at full strength.   ~ read more in today's cruise journal


 

Orange roughy (Hoplostethus atlanticus)[11 July] Today did not start out with much promise. An early morning bottom trawl at the shallow station just to the east of the Ridge's central rift valley "hung up" (got caught on something big, like a rock outcrop) for a while as soon as the net reached the bottom. When the net was retrieved at the end of the tow, we discovered that the headrope had broken. However, while all that was going on, the ROV team had finished repairs to the deep ROV, named Bathysaurus (which means "deep lizard"). The ROV was launched at about 0320, ship-time, and made it to the bottom a little over an hour later.  We spent the next 3.5 hours remotely exploring the bottom at depths of 1030-1165 m. Bathysaurus was able to record excellent video observations of the area.  We got close-up looks at many fishes and saw the microhabitats with which they were associated (for instance orange roughy (see picture) - which aren't always orange but are rough looking - and even a shark. After the dive, everyone was tired but elated. However, there was little time for rest. A new trawl net had been rigged (...) and the highlight for one of us was an unusual bigfin squid, of which (as far as I know) only one specimen has ever been collected before, in 1936...  ~ read more in today's cruise journal

 

A true fish specialist at work[12 July] We have now completed the second to last station in the southern study area with another successful ROV today as well as another trawl (at apr. 2100 meters depht). Another highlight today was the 1st major cleanup of the fish lab this trip. The fish people started to notice that after working in the lab for a while, no one wanted to sit next to us. They sent a specialist to take care of the problem (see photo)!

Funny things go through your head when you are out to sea and your normal sleep schedule experiences major disruption. I found myself preparing to take a shower yet thinking of fishes (I guess I always think of fishes in one way or another). I thought of the difficulty of differentiating species, and how it is often harder to understand why certain species are different. At the same time, don’t ask me why, I thought of the human ear. (...) it struck me as profoundly odd that the ear is shaped the way it is. (...) The challenge is to find the right way of looking at the characters to understand what it is they do; what advantage it is that they give. I think that is part of what MAR-ECO is all about. ~ read more "Random thoughts on ichthyology and the human ear" in today's cruise journal

A Pyrosoma colony trapped on top of the CTD[13 July] Ocean scientists are gadgeteers, there is no doubt about it. They marvel over state of the art equipment. Coming across them in corridors or on deck, you hear them discussing the most complex details of their sophisticated gear. Yet, their proficiency in this field is only reasonable. Next time you sit in an airliner looking down on the landscape beneath you, imagine how it would be to study birds by lowering a net to treetop height! At that moment one starts to appreciate how enormous a vertical distance of 3000 - 4000 metres really is, and it is equally apparent that gear matters. You can tell from the faces where there have been successes and failures. After the recent days of excellent video tapes from the ROVs, everyone have been in a high glee, jokes and merry comments abounding. Alas, today there was a regrettable setback: The engine of the once so promising ROV Bathysaurus refuses to work, and this seems to be definitive. (...) Sometimes, however, our gadgets provide us with a bonus. Today our CTD, after having done its intended job in the depths, was hauled with a 2 m long Pyrosoma colony wrapped around its top! (...) And for the first time during the cruise we obtained an ISIT profile.  ~ read more in today's cruise journal

The 'two' giant blackhead salmons - Narcetes stomias. [14 July] : We finished the work on the Southern Box with a dive of the ROV Aglantha in a western station. We have conducted six bottom trawl stations and in each the catches always surprise us. A preliminary analysis of the fish sampled in this southern area, indicates the collection of about 1698 specimens, and more than 112 different species belonging to 43 different families. One species in particular, commonly named blackhead salmon (scientific name Narcetes stomias), attracted special attention. Last trawl brought two giant specimens (see photo). Another interesting finding is related to the diet of probably the largest ophidiid in this area (up to 127 cm) commonly named pudgy cuskeel which is, according to literature sources, a predatory fish. We have found in the intestine of our specimen several large (10-15 cm) pyrosomas (gelatinous planctonic organisms) that seem very unusual and suggest that the cuskeel may prey upon these animals in the water column. No doubt, this was one of the most interesting species caught during the G.O. Sars Leg 2 cruise.   ~ read more in today's cruise journal
Andrey Dolgov with an Orange roughy[15 July]: The highlight of today was a long tow with the bottom trawl at 800-1500 m to sample the shallower bentho-pelagic fauna close to the seafloor. The deepest layer of the haul yielded a mixture of spectacular fishes. The most conspicuous catch was 14 adult and juvenile specimens of Orange roughy (Hoplostethus atlanticus) in very good condition. These unusual looking fish are brilliantly colored and can live to be quite old (these fish species lives for well over 100 years). Of course the Orange roughy is best known on the tables of many restaurants world wide as a highly regarded food fish.
~ read more in today's cruise journal
A SCANMAR trawl sensor[16 July]: We are now at the Charlie-Gibbs Fracture Zone, and today's station is among the deepest, at 3500 m. We towed a bottom trawl at this depth, and that was a record depth for the cruise. One of the main challenges on Leg 2 of the MAR-ECO expedition is to obtain new knowledge on the identity and distribution of organisms living near or on the bottom. This is no easy task in an area of the ocean where the dominant substrate is rock and the terrain is really rugged. The mid-Atlantic Ridge can best be characterised as a major mountain chain, and it is only in between the rocks and at the bottom of troughs and valleys we find some patches of soft substrate. When we deploy a trawl we wish at all times to know its shape and operation characteristics. This is monitored by wireless acoustic SCANMAR sensors (see photo). 
~ read more in today's cruise journal

The right figure shows the resulting current profile throughout the water column. CTD-rosette to the left [17 July]: We still have 5 bottom trawls left, so still more strange shapes from the deep should continue to come aboard on a daily basis. The deepest haul so far has been down to 3400 m. Some times we are lucky, and have one hour of video from the headline of the trawl down towards the bottom. Fish encountered are generally docile and do not react much to the approaching trawl. An occasional volcanic rock protrudes, crating a mild shock when the trawl film is reviewed. But as the catch is already on deck the reviewer is left in a mild state of tedium save for the albeit less than realistic hope of a glimpse of the deep sea monster that got away. The figure shows a CTD-rosette to the left, which is lowered to ca 20 m above the bottom on each station. It carries among other things the sensors for temperature, salinity, pressure, oxygen, and Chlorophyll A and 24 bottles for water samples. The right figure shows the resulting current profile throughout the water column. ~ read more in today's cruise journal



 

Look at the size of those antennae![18 July]: The ROV crew worked tirelessly through the night, and finally discovered a small leak in one of the pressure cans. They corrected the elusive problem and we had a pelagic dive to 1000m early this morning; Several deep pelagic organisms were captured by the ROV suction system. Throughout the day the respiration of these organisms has been recorded by measuring the amount of oxygen they use in a given amount of time.  The ROBIO lander also completed its 10th and deepest deployment to 3508m, returning with images depicting the typical environment of the Mid-Atlantic ridge; tumbling basaltic pillow lava with patches of soft sediment. The dominant fish visiting the bait throughout the deployment were the abyssal grenadier, Coryphaenoides armatus, and Barathrites iris; a fish so rare that it doesn’t have a common name! Trawling was not possible today due to the extensively rough terrain that was surveyed for hours in a desperate attempt to find a suitable piece of flat ground!
~ read more in today's cruise journal


The enigmatic chimaera, a very large specimen caught in the trawl.[19 July]: Today started with the Aglantha ROV descending  to the crest of the western edge of the MAR. It descended through clouds of plankton, spotting various kinds of jellyfish. The pelagic ROV dives especially focus on the gelatinous life forms and the ROVs are equipped with samplers capable of gently catching any interesting jellies. Comparing the dives so far, the abundance of jellies in the water column seems to be much higher here in the middle box than it was in the southern box. Last night's dive was particularly rich and many of the jellies were extremely interesting and of potentially rare or even unknown species. When Aglantha had returned to the surface, it was time to pick up an acoustic lander that had been deployed on Leg 1. For extra interest the technicians had put baited traps onto the legs of the lander and in these were caught two enormous wolf-fish. The star of the catch however was a big chimaera. These are very interesting fish, half way between sharks and bony fish. No one knows whether they are a truly "missing link" or whether they are they a relict of an ancient group of fish that existed before land vertebrates evolved.  - they are the "frankenstien fish" with bits borrowed from different types. 
~ read more in today's cruise journal

MS Loran and G.O. Sars meeting on the mid-Atlantic Ridge[20 July]: Early this morning the longliner MS Loran retrieved the survey’s last longline on a station at 4200 m depth. After waiting for the morning light and the calm seas, the two vessels RV G. O. Sars and MS Loran came close for the last time. The MOB boat of the G.O.Sars picked up one of the scientists onboard Loran and transferred him to the research vessel. MS Loran had now finished her mission for MAR-ECO and set the course for the Hatton Bank and later Ireland. 
~ read more in today's cruise journal
Cannister holding ROV parts being dropped!! [21 July]: Today we had a rendezvous, in the Atlantic Ocean, with the 333 Squadron of the Norwegian air force! They had agreed to come to our rescue, by bringing the spare parts needed to get the remotely operated vehicle (ROV) Bathysaurus back in operation. At 13:30 Hrs all hands were on deck for the once-in-a-lifetime event. We watched the Orion plane zoom out from the horizon and roar straight for the ship, four black vapor trails streaming from the propeller-driven engines. At least 500 digital pictures must have been taken of the plane and a couple dozen videocams recorded the fly-overs! And, the drop was successful. Actually, six bright orange canisters were delivered, just off the stern, one by one. Awesome precision! Excellent job by the 333 Squadron pilot and crew! We are all very grateful!
~ read more in today's cruise journal
Lophelia filmed by the deep-sea ROV Aglantha below 1000 metres[22 July]: Today we found again a profusion of Lophelia, one of the cold corals, standing on rocky outcrops, emerging from the rocks but also on soft bottoms in small tuffs, not forming large reefs as know for other places. What is amazing in these kinds of dives is to discover such diverse and colourful associations of organisms where no sun-light penetrates.
~ read more in today's cruise journal

The squid Gonatus steenstrupi, collected by the suction sampler mounted on ROV Aglantha[23 July]: Whenever one of the ROVs (remotely operated vehicles) prepare for diving, both scientists and crew members head for the nearest TV-screen, anticipating the appearance of strange looking deep sea creatures of all kinds. Unique to this cruise is that we are collecting data on organisms ranging in size from millimetres (egg and plankton) to meters (whales), from surface to the seabed. Early this morning, the ROV Bathysaurus dove in for another exciting adventure. Located at one of the deepest stations, with more than 3500 meters of water between the ship and the seabed, we had a seemingly long journey ahead of us.
~ read more in today's cruise journal

A medusa selected for onboard experiments. Photo: D. Shale [24 July] On the deep first station a mid-water dive was carried out with the ROV Aglantha. The zooplankton team is looking for gelatinous animals in the water column. They try to identify species and count their numbers, and they use the suction sampler on Aglantha to collect specimens to be used for onboard respiration experiments. Today’s dive was successful in that they captured several live medusae in good condition.
~ read more in today's cruise journal

[25 July]: The trawl catches are diverse and many of the fishes are difficult to identify. It takes many hours to successfully categorize, sample and record the catch from a trawl sample. In addition to fishes, cephalopods are examined as well as benthic and pelagic invertebrates. Cephalopods are incredibly varied and pose a quite a challenge.
~ read more in today's cruise journal

Cirrate octopod from the Aglantha footage [26 July]: A very long and successful dive with the ROV Aglantha filled a substantial part of the day. Not only were standardized transects completed without any problems, but some really spectacular scenes unfolded before the camera lens. For the first time on this cruise a cirrate, or finned, octopod was filmed in the sea. Quite suddenly one of these octopods showed up in front of Aglantha, slowly and deliberately folding its "umbrella", stretching its tentacles in a streamlined fashion, and starting to swim by movements of its two fins. There was dead silence before the screen, everybody taken by surprise by this sudden sight.
~ read more in today's cruise journal

A deep-sea anglerfish[27 July]: Trawl catches continue to bring us new discoveries and some strange fish species with bizarre forms. Yesterday a small anglerfish of 4 cm length and 2.7 g weight and a name bigger than itself (whalehead dreamer Lophodolos acanthognathus), was the star of the day. There are only two species in this genus, and they are poorly known. To our knowledge the males of this species are not yet known.
~ read more in today's cruise journal

Is it an alien from the deep-sea? [28 July]: Today’s ROV dive was another successful dive to around 1000 m to observe and collect animals from the pelagic zone. The main aim was to collect gelatinous animals for experiments carried out on board. Some specimens were collected using the suction device on the front of the ROV to capture the animal undamaged. Later in the day we completed our twentieth haul with the big benthic trawl. The trawl was towed at depths ranging from 3100 to 3010 m. A ... were also caught (see picture). It has huge sharp teeth, very small eyes, and between the eyes is a light attached to a long rod. What is it, is it an alien? Only a few fish species from the Mid-Atlantic Ridge deep-sea ecosystem have been studied for parasites and stomach contents. An example in todays cruise journal clearly demonstrates the urgent need to investigate the parasite fauna of the deep-sea fishes, which we collected during the Mar-Eco cruise of the RV G.O. Sars.
~ read more in today's cruise journal

The last recovery of the ROBIO [29 July]: We were at our last station, did our CTD and deployed the ROBIO lander, but other activities were impossible due to strong gale, heavy swell and technical problems with the trawl. The ship started steaming for Aberdeen, Scotland, at 18:30 Hrs (Norwegian time). The scientific work of Leg 2, and indeed the entire MAR-ECO expedition 2004, is over. Those of us who have played active roles in the planning of this effort for a long period of time now experience these strange contradictory feelings of relief that the job is done and reluctance to accept that it is now over. We have learned a lot, but still so little.
~ read more in today's cruise journal
MAR-ECO scientists at work sorting and recording samples from the mid-water trawls. Photo: Jaime Alvarez [30 July]: The fish people has recognised the need for substantial effort to re-check identifications of many fishes. This may require help from experts who are not participants on the cruise. Specialists on particular animal groups who can identify previously described species and describe new ones are known as taxonomists or systematists. They are usually affiliated with zoological museums or universities. MAR-ECO has several taxonomists among its partners, and more may be consulted in the future. Describing a new species requires thorough analyses of morphology and anatomy, comparisons with other related species, and now also usually a DNA analysis. This cannot be done on a ship, hence specimens we record that cannot readily be identified onboard may not necessarily represent new species to science.
~ read more in today's cruise journal
Andrey Dolgov getting a fish portrait.[31 July]: Another quiet day of steaming. By the end of the day we passed over the Hatton Bank, a major plateau marking the beginning of the continental shelf of Europe. We have put the deep ocean behind us.
The morning sub-group meetings showed that definitive commitments to future analysis tasks are necessary and some groups evaluated preliminary results and paved the way for new analyses. The zooplankton team has collected many samples and hours of video footage. The afternoon was very exciting to everyone. We had a series of four seminars presenting preliminary findings from Leg 2 of the cruise and furthermore: David Shale, the photographer, and Anders Thorsen (David's very enthusiastic pupil...) almost managed to lead astray the entire crowd by an impromptu pre-release of their latest DVD with fascinating images accompanied by some very oriental music. Let's have more!! ~ read more in today's cruise journal

The French Underwater Video Profiler (UVP)[1 August] We continued our voyage towards Aberdeen. People have been tidying labs and work areas, correcting data entries and continued preliminary analyses. The plankton people have worked their way through another few tapes (and hours) of ROV-observations to look for jelly-plankton. Weather has been pleasant, allowing us to enjoy the view of the outer Hebrides and mainland northern Scotland. We passed rather close to the now uninhabited isolated island St. Kilda. During the night we entered the North Sea through the Pentland Firth. The afternoon series of seminars was continued with four more presentations of preliminary findings.
~ read more in today's cruise journal

Last ROBIO lander being retrieved, now safely back in Aberdeen. Monty’s sleepless nights are over.[2 August]: Waiting for the pilot outside Aberdeen, we realized that civilization was near. The harbour is tidal and one has to line up to enter carefully through the tidal channel. And we were not alone. Inside the harbour we were directed to Regent’s Quay, a very central location, only a few steps down the hill from Princess Street. CoML and MAR-ECO banners are on the ship’s side again as in Horta, and tomorrow we’re expecting visitors and press. Monty, Nikki and our photographer David Shale, the UK contingent, will leave us tomorrow and they will be missed. We have enjoyed their company and skill, and look forward to working with them in the analysis phase of the project. Or perhaps later, on a British ship working in the mid-Atlantic? ~ read more in today's cruise journal

MAR-ECO Students from the Ellon Academy[3 August]: In Aberdeen around 130 people had registered to get a tour of the ship. A very special group of visitors were pupils from one of the MAR-ECO school network members, the Ellon Academy, led by theur principal Mr Brian Wilkins. In the middle of their summer holiday they took the trouble of coming to visit the ship and hear more about the project.
~ read more in today's cruise journal

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