Thom has a theory that we are in fact all dead. It seems we may have all been killed in the storm off of Auckland and this is just some kind of weird purgatory. I am starting to believe him (if the concept of an afterlife wasn’t simply screaming lunacy).
I strolled out on deck this morning at stupid O’clock and there was nothing. Not a breath of air, not a ripple in the water and butterflies flying all over the place. In all my years at sea I have never seen the sea this calm, it was like a mirror, we didn’t even have the engines on, just drifting silently nowhere slowly. It feels as though we are so close to the end of the earth that the tide has ran out and given up and any day now we’ll simply fall of the edge of the world. Turns out the world is round, which is ideal.
So, hi-ho, off to work we go. We pulled in Frank Trappa in one of the easiest lander recoveries in living memory and were presented with one of the best amphipod catches I have seen in a long time. Hundreds and hundreds of large specimens of at least 4 major species. Easy.
We later released the lander from the bottom of the trench and again brought it on board in such easy condition that frankly it bored me. However, it is safe to say Thom and I were rather nervous about the result. This was the big one. We striped it down, pulled the flash card out and right enough we had indeed taken over 1000 images of the bottom.
The question is: does the New Hebrides Trench have an endemic snailfish in it? The answer to that is, well, erm, no. It doesn’t. There are fish, but again the usual big ophidiid of the genus Bassozetus, but the images were amazing nonetheless.
It is all starting to make sense. I would go into some great detail about how scientifically interesting these last few weeks of data have become but that isn’t necessarily an interesting read but in a nutshell here it is:
In trench research there is a propensity to study the deep ones (10,000m+) and then make large sweeping statement about what we see. The New Hebrides Trench is a relatively shallow one (7000m) compared with the nearby Kermadec Trench (10,200m). What we are trying to study is whether the bathymetric trends that we see across deep trenches is the same across similar depths shallow trenches but cease at the shallower maximum, or are the overall trends completely compressed into a shallower trench. I.e. does what happens at the deepest part of a deep trench also occur in the deepest part of a shallower trench. If so, that would mean that depth isn’t everything, and that is looking more and more likely to be the case. It’ll take time to go through all this but it looks like the combination of food supply and topography are perhaps more important than depth.
Jeez, now I’ve bored myself and I’m not sure that even makes sense. Ho hum, deal with it.
So after an afternoon of intense advanced level sweating and trying to avoid inhaling butterflies, all gear was redeployed – lander to 6500m, traps to 5600m. Quickly running out of time now.
On other more personal matters, Mackenzie and Heather, Thom and Ryan got the chance for a raz about on the boats rib today after the man over board drill (the man over board is a buoy that I spray painted a face on and called Rodriguez). The late evening was spent watching bioluminescence in the unbelievable calm waters followed by luring in puffer fish, squid and various other wet and pointy animals using torches. Good fun.
I think I might have actually enjoyed today, but it’s been so long I can’t remember exactly what that feels like.
Alan – 25th November.