Sunday, 8 July 2012

Pirate attacks on the JNCC survey....

Hello and welcome to the latest JNCC survey cruise blog which will be collecting survey data within a number of recommended Marine Conservation Zones (rMCZs) in the Finding Sanctuary MCZ project area and an existing designated marine protected area called a Site of Conservation Interest (SCI)

For Laura and I, the Cefas Endeavour will be our new home from home for the next two weeks with a bunch of crew and scientists from Cefas and the University of Exeter. We will be surveying the benthic habitat (sea bed) in rMCZ Greater Haig Fras, rMCZ North West of Jones Bank and rMCZ South of the Isles of Scilly as well as 'Haig Fras' SCI.
We joined the Endeavour in Lowestoft on Monday afternoon and we were immediately given a tour by the Scientist in Charge, Roger Coggan from Cefas. We were introduced to crew and other scientists on board and shown parts of the vessel which we will be becoming very familiar with, including the plotter room, wet and dry labs, our cabins and of course the mess. We got settled into our cabins and then discussed the Plan of Action for the survey with Roger and checked all the survey coordinates points. Then the serious business of checking out the local 'refreshment' point on shore was underway as the Captain gave us shore leave for the evening. This was an opportunity for the scientists to get to know each other, swap survey stories (we all have them) and discuss the finer points of acoustic surveying.  

On Tuesday morning we left Lowestoft at 9am and steamed south, stopping briefly south of the Isle of Wight to calibrate some of the acoustic equipment. This is called a 'patch test' where a area of water is selected which is of a similar depth to where the equipment is going to be deployed during survey.

During this time we undertook a number of safety exercises including dressing in immersion suits, and preparing for pirates attacks - in which we had to fend off 'the pirates' by blasting them with the vessel's water hoses! Unfortunately for some staff the phantom pirates attacked just above their heads- resulting in a few soggy scientists!!

We finally arrived at Haig Fras (about 120km south west of Cornwall) at about 7am on Thursday morning. We began by collecting multibeam and side scan sonar between the two areas of reef which had already been fully surveyed in the Haig Fras SAC. The data collected here will be used to develop the management practices within the SAC to ensure that any areas of reef are fully protected, while not inhibiting any activities in other sediment areas.

The figure below shows the existing multibeam data, with the red/yellow/green areas indicating areas of potential reef, and the hashed area in the middle - the area which multibeam and sidescan sonar has just been collected during this cruise.

We are now collecting multibeam data from the whole of the Greater Haig Fras rMCZ (see the figure below for the lines which will be followed for the multibeam), and will later collect grab, camera and video samples from this area to ground truth the multibeam. The ground truthing will begin during the day shift today and will continue into the next night shift.

The highlight of the cruise so far, has been spotting some bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) in the distance while sitting on the bow in the sunshine after a long night shift. We are still hoping for closer encounters during the cruise and will be keeping our eyes peeled for any marine well as any pirates!