We have left the blue ocean water behind
Andrey Dolgov getting a fish portrait
Ingvar Byrkjedal, bird watcher turned fish taxonomist
Date:31 July 2004
Author: Odd Aksel Bergstad (IMR)
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. At nightfall we got into even shallower water of the Rockall Plateau, and during the night we will pass Rockall itself, this barren little rock in the middle of the ocean, only inhabited by seabirds.
The morning sub-group meetings showed that definitive commitments to future analysis tasks are necessary. The fish people 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.
Other groups evaluated preliminary results and paved the way for new analyses. The zooplankton team has collected many samples and hours of video footage. And data from the Underwater Video Profiler (UVP) also need further processing. A major challenge is to sort all net samles from Leg 1 and Leg 2. In due course data from many sources will be compared and synthesised, forming the basis of a new understanding of the patterns of distribution and abundance of the animals.
The afternoon was very exciting to everyone. We had a series of four seminars presenting preliminary findings from Leg 2 of the cruise.
- Øyvind Knutsen presented an overview of the physical oceanography, i.e. temperature, salinity, watermass distributions, and current measurements. These are data of great interest in themselves, but also to the biologists who wish to relate their observations of animals to the abiotic environment.
- Mike Vecchione summarised results on cephalopods caught in the bottom trawl and filmed by the ROVs. Truly extraordinary results in terms of diversity and potentially new species. Some of the video footage shows the cephalopods in their natural beauty, never seen when they appear on deck in a trawl catch.
- Inge Fossen presented results from the longline operations of MS Loran, and everybody were amazed by the amount of work the 4-person scientific crew had accomplished and by the rich material they had collected.
- Marsh Youngbluth, Tom Sørnes, and Aino Hosia highlighted zooplankton results and showed beautiful pictures of gelatinous animals. They have obtained new distribution data from ROVs, and also successfully conducted onboard physiological studies on a particular medusa. Monty Priede, despite being a fish biologist, was allowed to finish off the zooplankton session by showing results from the bioluminescence recordings by the ISIT lander.
The lectures were definite highlights. Nonetheless, some of us are easily distracted. 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!!