08/24/03 - An abundance of flyingfish
We began last night's collection effort with the mid-water otter trawl. The first deployment failed when a weak link on the bridle broke, and the net didn't fish properly. We repaired the net, but the second attempt failed to catch anything. Then we tried dip-netting. This is achieved by first attracting fish to the boat, then attempting to outsmart or outmaneuver them, or simply move faster. To attract fish, we set up supplemental lighting in the form of several 500,000 candlepower lights rigged up to the stern and, in the aft section, on the port side of the ship. After some adjustment, we usually can get the lights secured so as to direct their beams directly down, or at a 45° angle or less to the water.
Why does light attract fish? It could be that these are fish that normally swim up the water column to feed (and thus are accustomed to traveling towards light); light denotes a full moon, and the fish may think it's time to spawn; or light may simply disorient and confuse them. Regardless, the method paid off last night. Among the fish caught were jack, a dolphin fish, needlefish, pufferfish, and an assortment of flyingfish— fourwing, Atlantic, bluntnose, oceanic, smallwing, margined, clearwing, and bandwing, among others. The lights also attracted a juvenile loggerhead turtle that went bobbing by the stern, and a dolphin whose sleek, streamlined body gave us a momentary startle. This dolphin didn't stick around to give us a show, like his cohorts from yesterday did, but the unexpectedness of his visit was certainly heartwarming.
The sub descended about 8 a.m. to a good site in the northern Lophelia area. The digital camera took several excellent shots of this spectacular coral bank. The sub returned with two goosefish, an octopus, a sea urchin and sea star and some pieces of Lophelia. We have decided to remain in this area to document the banks more completely. Between dives we pulled several plankton nets so we can try to characterize the life at the surface.
The second sub dive went to a similar area and returned with a beautiful starfish, a galatheid crab and some coral samples as well as hundreds of photos and lots of video. We are planning to steam back to our MPA site tonight. Not only will it bring us closer to our final destination in Charleston, it also will let us return to a location for some final high-definition filming. Everyone is hoping this means extra sleep during our transit!
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