Monday 17 March 2014

And we’re off

The survey set off from Lowestoft at around 6pm on Thursday 13th March with 16 scientific crew, three JNCC scientists (Neil, Michelle and Hugh) and 13 Cefas scientists along with 16 crew members.  While the weather was damp and foggy it didn't impede our departure.

The Cefas Endeavour leaving Lowestoft in fog (David Haverson)
We had a fair steam to our first survey location, Farnes East recommended MCZ (rMCZ), so we busied ourselves getting the scientific instruments set up on board and getting ready and prepped for a busy three weeks survey ahead; you can get through a lot of sample pots in three weeks and each one needs a label! We also heard a rumour that St. Patrick’s Day will be celebrated on March 17th - so watch this space.

After the obligatory muster drill, we arrived on site at Farnes East rMCZ on the afternoon of 14th March – just as the weather started to pick up. We planned to collect information on the rocky habitats within the rMCZ, so the camera drop frame was our sampling technique of choice to record video footage and snapshots of the seabed.  We were also using a location beacon on the camera frame, which tells the vessel where it is in relation to the vessel when it is suspended off the side of the boat just above the seabed.

We've shown some example pictures below of the creatures and seabed habitats we've seen in Farnes East rMCZ.

Outcropping bedrock covered with brittlestars (Ophiothrix fragilis).  You can also see the sea urchin (Echinus esculentus) and the long-clawed squat lobster (Munida rugosa) (JNCC/Cefas).

Boulder reef with a faunal turf.  You can see an edible crab (Cancer pagurus) in a crevice (JNCC/Cefas). 

Boulders and cobbles with a spider crab perched on one (JNCC/Cefas).

The seamouse (Aphrodita aculeata) crawling across an area of sediment (JNCC/Cefas).

A bedrock ledge with a carpet of brittlestars (Ophiothrx fragilis) and the anemone Bolocera.(JNCC/Cefas)

Cryptic marine life at Farnes East rMCZ: can you spot the spider crab and cup coral (Caryophilia smithii) (JNCC/Cefas).

A hidden gem: the brightly coloured nudibranch Flabellina pedata (JNCC/Cefas).

Adjacent to the areas of reef, we found muddy plains characterised by the seapen Pennatula phosphorea – so called because it can produce brilliant flashes of light when touched at night (JNCC/Cefas).

With our resident ornithologist Hugh on board, when he’s been ‘off shift’, he’s been keeping an eye on the local bird life.  Puffins, gannets, little auks, and the occasional harbour porpoise have kept him busy with his bins.