Friday, 8 June 2012

Plankton blooms, Strange birds and More Macro Photography

Well, we left Rockall trough yesterday and moved to a shallower site further north on Rockall bank to try and escape the storms which are swirling around the south of the UK at the moment, which seems to have been a good move as we’ve managed to get some good, long ROV dives out here so far!

Interestingly, we seem to have arrived right in the middle of a coccolithophore bloom which has turned the water a tropical milky green colour! Coccolithophores are a type of phytoplankton with a calcium carbonate skeleton, and are one of the most obvious blooms to see using satellite imagery because they are such a bright green.

A coccolithophore bloom has turned the water bright green

We’ve also had a few interesting bird visitors lately. I’m not actually sure the bird from the last blog really was an arctic skua, and we were visited by a yet another skua two days ago which I’ve not seen before. I've no idea if they're the same species with different plumage or are completely different, so if anyone can help me out it would be greatly appreciated! We don't have a particularly good ID book out here so getting these right at the moment is more or less guess work.

Another mystery skua passing by the ship

I also spotted this little fulmar amongst the crowd, showing very different colours from normal, but I don’t know if it’s just a young bird or on in winter plumage? I’ve not seen fulmars in different plumage before so any help would be much appreciated!

I've never seen a fulmar with this plumage before. Is this common or something weird?

With the return to ROV dives we’ve also had some more guests for the photography aquarium. To get around the issue of the unbalanced lighting I made a homemade reflector out of tin foil and a random piece of plastic and it seems to be working pretty well so far. See what you think of these:

A little squat lobster on a hydroid. 

The hydroid itself was full of little amphipods (crustaceans similar to sandhoppers)

Eunice norvegicus is a polychaete worm which builds its tubes inside Lophelia reef framework.

A gorgonian (a type of soft coral) commonly seen growing in Lophelia framework

A tiny crinoid or feather star, found clinging on to a little piece of coral.

We're heading off to the Hebridean Seamount tonight which means we're heading back towards the Outer Hebrides and land and starting to meander homewards. We'll be passing Rockall itself this evening at about 9pm, so we'll hopefully get there for sunset (if the clouds lift a little!).