Saturday, 27 April 2013

Work, work, work (and sea monsters)

It's been a hectic two weeks.

Busy busy busy.

After the weather finally decided to stop chasing us around, we got ourselves over to our study site at the Porcupine Abyssal Plain to start what has probably been the most diverse range of deep-sea work I've encountered on a cruise! We've deployed and recovered environmental moorings, autonomous gliders, and a time-lapse camera ("Bathysnap") that's been photographing the seabed for the last 12 months; we've sliced mud, trapped amphipods and sampled a LOT of water!


Trawling in the Abyss

But the work that I came out here for was the trawling, and despite a couple of minor issues with the net along the way, we managed to catch ourselves a decent selection of fish which will help massively with confirming the species identifications of the fish I'm seeing in my photographs from the region. It's also a bit more data to add to our long-term dataset from the PAP which has been being added to gradually over the last 20 years and is one of only two such datasets to exist in the world, so all of this is pretty valuable.

The benthic fishes include the grenadiers (top four images) and eels (bottom image).
My primary interest is in the benthic fish (the ones that live on or close to the seafloor), like the ones in the image above. However, from a purely photographic point of view it's the pelagic or mid-water species that have been holding my attention over the past few days, because they are brilliantly monstrous little things! Here's a selection (most backgrounds have been photoshopped out and replaced with black):

Female Anglerfish

Female angler fish (head detail).

Gulper Eel (head detail)

Hatchetfish

As usual though, we unfortunately also collected a lot of litter in our catches. It's not surprising - this far offshore there are few regulations regarding the disposal of waste at sea (it's legal to dump most things once you reach international waters), but it's still a shame to think that even out here in an environment that is so distant from us, we're still disturbing and impacting it.

The litter brought up in our first trawl.

A coke can in the net.