Mixed bag today. The fish trap came up first with a good haul of Ophidiids (cusk-eels) from 4100 m. Our NIWA fish guy, Peter and Thom got on to doing what is necessary and confirmed they are Barathrites iris. The Latis came in shortly after and bagged us a Zoarcid (eel-pout) and both systems delivered a good haul of amphipods. So most people were pleased. The Abyssal-Lander was chock full of around 1000 good high quality images of the cusks and a surprising amount of natant decapods, one of which was also recovered on the traps. This one sample is something I have been after for years and it was in such a good condition that it was probably the highlight of the day.
The low-light of the day was the consequences of my bovine poodust induced act of forgetting to put the dummy connecter into the Hadal-Lander after starting it. As soon as it landed on deck I saw corrosion spilling out of the connector. It is moments like this that I hate – seeing your mistake lying before you in all it’s inglorious majesty.
After an hour of playing around with it, I did in fact confirm that it didn’t work as a result of my mistake but fortunately the entire system had shut down at around 800m down, rather than fry the boards, so it seems likely the Hadal-Lander will fight another day.
That day is today. Although the weather was slightly cooler, the day was again long and hard and we got everything turned around and we shot all 4 vehicles back down to 4100m on the abyssal plateau about 30 miles further north. I hope the camera works, a lot is riding on it, and I hope this whole dummy situation was simply a kink in the lineage of certainty. It will work.
I took unlikely inspiration from the 2nd engineers t-shirt today which said “the beatings will stop when morale improves”.
The dominance of the ophidiids is rather significant. Myself and a nice bloke from Hawaii called Jeff have been discussing the idea that macrourids dominate the deep sea fish fauna at abyssal depths but anecdotal evidence suggest this is only true where the abyssal depths coincide with continental margins, in this case the Pacific Rim. We think that when far from land in the deep oligotrophic basins, the macrourids are replaced by ophidiids and here we are in the SouthFijiBasin at 4100m without a single macrourid in sight. I think we are on to something already.
Alan – 10th November