Friday 7 November 2014

Under the weather

The weather has picked up over the last few days as low pressure Atlantic weather systems form an orderly queue waiting to move our way.

Weather chart showing a low pressure system

Due to safety concerns and difficulties controlling the camera system over the seabed in heavy swell, all video sample collection has stopped. This has set in motion a busy period of data management activity as we start backing-up, checking and “folderizing” all the stills and video data collected to date. To make the most of ship time, we have taken the opportunity to collect additional information on environmental factors such as current speed/direction that may influence the type and distribution of species that we’re seeing on our ‘state-of-the-art’ TV screens. Despite the bad weather, morale remains high and breakfasts remain down.

Echosounder image of seabed showing a sharp rise in reef elevation
We have been lucky that the visibility in the area has generally been fantastic and we’ve been provided with some great images of Solan Bank reef. Preliminary viewing of the camera data suggests that the stations we’ve visited have a mix of stony reef and bedrock reef, interspersed with areas of relatively course sandy sediment. Although the reef elevation varies considerably across the site, some areas occasionally rise dramatically from the surrounding seabed (see image below), much to the alarm of our Marine Scotland colleagues as they are controlling the rather expensive drop frame camera. Nervous times indeed!

We’ve encountered a range of typical reef species over the last few days. One of the main targets of the survey has been the humble sponge, of which several examples were described in our last blog. This time we thought we’d share some of the other beasties filling our screens, including several fish species, octopus, squid, sea anemones and other epifauna some examples we’ve preliminarily identified can be seen below.

A., Conger Eel (Conger conger); B., Ray (Raja sp.); C., Squid (possibly Loligo sp.)
D., Sea Urchin (Echinus sp.) and an Edible Crab (Cancer pagurus); E., Rockling (Gaidropsarus vulgaris); F., Octopus (possible Eledone cirrhosa)

We’re off to batten down the hatches, Bye for now! Declan