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Today was a big day! We've officially sealed the habitat, and are now locked in one gigantic hyperbaric chamber. We're actually only at 20 feet of pressure now, instead of our usual 46ish. This means it's getting easier to whistle, among other things. I know there's a bit of confusion about the whole process of decompression, so I'm just gonna take a little walk though our day today. First it may help to have an idea of what decompression means, and what saturation means!
On any dive when you go below certain depths, the pressure increases. On the surface we are subjected to one atmosphere of pressure. At 46 feet, we are subject to 2.5 atmospheres of pressure because the water around us is way more dense than air. This means that more air can be compressed into the same volume of space. So when we breathe here, we are breathing in 2.5 the amount of air on the surface, even if it is the same volume. Make sense?
When the gases are compressed within our bodies at this depth, we are thought of as saturated, which is okay as long as we stay under pressure. However, were we to go to the surface quickly and relieve that pressure, all of those compressed gases would suddenly decompress and expand in our blood and tissues. This is known as decompression sickness, or the bends, and can cause problems ranging from disorientation, dizziness, joint pain, and ultimately death. This is why we go through the process of safe decompression. Decompression is the slow lowering of pressure, so that the gases have time to slowly expand and leave our bodies before we exit the habitat. It requires the use of a hyperbaric chamber, in which we can control the level of pressure to a fine degree of accuracy. This is where Aquarius comes in.
The decompression process begins with a standard change of the CO2 scrubbers, so that we have enough for the entire duration of enclosure within the habitat. We then prepared the door for closing and sealing. Since the sonars we were running require cables to run outside into the water, we had to remove those first. It was quite sad, seeing our tools being put away... but they'll be back up soon for the remainder of the mission and I will control them from topside!
Once the door was cleared, it's important to ensure a good seal on the gigantic steel vault door. We add grease to the o-ring, to help prevent a seal being broken. We then have to go throughout the habitat and open any closed or sealed containers! Just like our bodies, any gases kept within a container will expand as the pressure releases, and could cause little explosions of things like ziploc bags and jars. Once we determined that the habitat was properly prepared, Mark, Ryan, and Jason (the dive medical technician who is decompressing with us to make sure we're okay) gave it a final look over around 3:45 PM, and we go into our bunks for oxygen treatment. At 4 PM, the steel vault door was sealed shut and hammered into place. It was final, we were getting ready to head to the surface!
We begin the decompression process by breathing 100% oxygen for a total of 60 minutes. This aids in the offgassing process, and can speed things up. The masks felt like they were relics of the cold war and were not the most comfortable, but worth it for the safety! It helped that we threw a movie onto Fabien's mini-projector and watched it while we had to remain motionless in bed breathing oxygen!
Oxygen treatment finished, we were now free to move around the cabin. Which, since the wet porch is sealed off, is considerably smaller. I have to say I feel more like a sardine now than ever!
As part of a fun little side experiment, we put a little air into a glove at 46 feet of pressure, and placed it beside the pressure gauge. I've been taking a picture as the pressure has been dropping to see how it changes! The small amount of air placed inside the glove at 2.5 atmospheres has now blown the glove up quite a bit in the lack of pressure. We'll see what it looks like in the morning!
Despite the fact that we are now sealed off from it, the ocean never ceases to surprise us. Tonight we got a fantastic view of two reef sharks coming by the habitat to eat some of the fish in the area! Kip got an amazing video that not only included the sharks, but also our favorite grouper Sylvia doing some eating. All in the same frames! Can't wait to link that for you guys, it was really something to see.
The pressure is still dropping in here, as we slowly ascend to surface levels. In the morning, we will be ready to repressurize the habitat so that when we open it, it will not flood with water. We will then quickly enter the water, and begin a slow ascent to the surface, just as if it were a normal dive. At that point, my journey as an aquanaut will have come to an end. As I've said before, it's a bittersweet feeling, however I am ready to feel the sun. Besides, there's still over 15 days left in the mission, and I plan to be around for as many of them as I can. Not only to continue running the experiments, but also to help the new aquanauts Liz and Grace with their work!
It was really amazing to share this experience with all of you readers, and though my words are inadequate to truly describe this journey, I'm glad you were along to read it. I plan to continue from the surface, but I will likely not be posting daily updates anymore!
For one last time from underwater on Mission 31 and the Medina Aquarius Reef Base... until tomorrow,
- Aubree Zenone, Aquanaut
Well that did it, I stepped up into the wet porch for the last time as a diver leaving from Aquarius. Very bittersweet, but man, what a dive it was! It was quite possibly the best dive in my life, and certainly the best night dive. I'll get into the reasons why in a little bit!
First, we began our day with our usual (and last) 5 am wake-up call to examine the corals! We quickly conducted our species surveys, and then headed in so that we could save some bottom time for a night dive. The day went quick, catching up on data entry, sleep, and a few odds and ends before we begin decompression tomorrow. At noon we were joined by Fabien and a camera crew from topside to film some of our grouper deployments. Unfortunately their camera ceased functioning, but fortunately this means I'm not the only one that has lost/broken some equipment this trip! Anyway, this all seems like a blur in comparison to the past three hours of my life. For the first time on the trip, we were allowed below the Aquarius out onto the reef when it was dark! Usually we can't, as our research in the day eats up all of our bottom time.
Tonight our dive was with Kip and Andy. Before we began anything, I took some time to shut the lights off and just enjoy the pitch black darkness at the bottom of the ocean. It was really, really incredible to be so far underwater and have no light whatsoever. You could still hear the noises of the reef, and know that everything around you was alive and moving... but you could see none of it. It was oddly comfortable, and exciting at the same time!
We did have some things to keep us busy other than just sitting in the darkness, however. Kip had loaned us some of his Light and Motion UV lights and goggles that allow us to see corals in a new way! Without the glasses, the beam looks just bright blue, like in the picture above. When you add in the glasses, you start to see things like the pictures below. Corals just light up like crazy, and it feels like you're at a dance club at the bottom of the sea! Incredibly surreal sights.
As if that wasn't cool enough, we started noticing hundreds of thousands of little planktonic organisms (maybe some type of worm or larvae) being attracted to the light. If we left our lights in one area, suddenly we were swarmed by them! It made for some really cool effects, and planktonivores such as these squid started taking notice and getting attracted to the lights to eat the little guys. This trend continued right up until the big guys, the six and seven foot long tarpon started coming and eating the fish! It was as if our lights opened up a window into an entire food chain!
But wait, there's more! (I feel like a saleseman for that "As Seen on TV" stuff) As we were walking around the habitat looking for some more corals to shoot, a turtle came up to us! It was incredibly curious as to what we were doing and kept circling, circling, and circling! We were worried at first that she was getting stressed out, or that the lights were disorienting her. However as soon as she would leave our lights, she would come right back! So I have to think that she was just really excited to check us out, haha.
Top that off with some really cool bottom creatures, like crabs, shrimp, and other creatures of the night... and it was probably the single best dive of my life. What a great way to end one of the greatest experiences of my life!
As I was tying up my umbilical, I realized that I wouldn't be untangling it in the morning to go deploy seagrass and I starting getting a little depressed. Then I realized I didn't have to wake up at 5 am, and that made me feel a little better! The fact is that I'm pretty waterlogged at this point. I've had that cut on my ankle that hasn't healed for three weeks, my hands are completely cut up (some may say it's because I'm dumb and don't wear gloves, but I hate losing dexterity while wearing gloves!), and I'm ready to feel the sun. Yes, I said it, I miss the Miami sun and heat. I may never say that again! Speaking of the Heat, root for the Miami Heat basketball team! If they win and have another game, we'll be featured on the big screen at the downtown Miami arena where they play!
Anyway, I'm going to go and absorb all the things I've just seen, and take stock of where we're at. Tomorrow at 11 am, we begin our decompression process. I plan to write a little bit about what exactly that process is, and how we're going to do it! Since we will be stuck inside for seventeen hours, I feel that this will happen sooner rather than later.
I feel like I keep repeating myself when I try to open up an entry with "Today was a good day!" Despite the things that may happen, good and bad, this is -always- a true statement and it's hard not to say it every single day.
Being that we currently don't have any seagrass and it's unlikely that we will get any before the end of our mission, our days was extraordinarily relaxed! That's not to say we didn't get a ton of work done, cause we did (sphere -finally- placed properly, conducted a series of visual censuses for fish and species counts at our sites, laid out a great site for and attempted our first plankton tows, and pammed the corals), but we weren't under such a crunch for time!
Combined with incredibly good visibility and some warm water, today's afternoon dive was one of the best we've had down here on the Aquarius. Our visitor today was an artist by the name of Wyland. Wyland is known for painting ocean and underwater themed pieces, however today he attempted something new! He brought down a set of oil paints and a weighted down canvas and was able to paint the Aquarius underwater. The piece actually came out really nice, and it was cool to watch!
The nice thing about our reef surveys is that you sit for fifteen minutes and record the size, number, and species of fish that come into a pre-designated area. Essentially you get to look at fish and enjoy every minute! Andy was conducting the surveys as he knows the fish identification far better than I do, so I was able to take some pictures and look around for a little while. One of our sites is directly below the life-support buoy and it usually is associated with a large number of school fish and predators. I never get tired of just watching them all swim around, looking for safety and food.
We noticed a unfortunate (or fortunate I suppose) parrotfish that was evidence of the dangers associated with such an active area. Little bugger was swimming around with a gigantic chunk bitten out of his tail. It looked really fresh, but he has a better chance of survival than he did when the bite was taken! My guess is that it would be the equivalent of something biting off the entirety of one of your quads. It also got me thinking as I sat awaiting our survey to finish, and maybe I'm spending too much time underwater, but I started thinking of how weird it would be if the surface world had the same proportions as the ocean. If the average fish is around a foot long here, the bigger ones can be twenty times as long! Imagine something on land being twenty times our size, and having that be our existence. It'd essentially be Godzilla everyday!
As a note, there's something I probably haven't been stressing enough, but definitely need to before this all ends. Aquarius as an object is just an indescribably impressive sight underwater. The visibility was good enough today to see all of it from a distance, and it is simply a behemoth. As a species we can be so incredibly ingenious and impressive. The marvel of engineering that this reef base represents really reminds me of what we can do as a species when we focus our efforts! If it didn't already resemble enough a giant steam-punk ocean beast, the habitat off-gasses excess air every few seconds from the wet porch, and the bubbling sound leaves a deep rumbling through the water column. It's a living, breathing, marvel.
I didn't go out on the evening dive tonight, as it was Andy's turn so I manage to stay inside and just enjoy the view for a while. I realize that tomorrow is the last night I will be out on the habitat... they may have to drag me in kicking and screaming. It figures... I'm finally starting to get into a schedule too! I woke up on my own around 5:15 AM this morning, which is scary. Good thing in just a few days I'll be able to drown that out with late nights and late mornings again. Whew!
From my third to last night on the habitat, I'll see you tomorrow,
Hello all, hope you've been avoiding the bad luck that seems to be everywhere on this particular day. I'm not saying I'm superstitious, I'm just saying don't bring a banana on my boat! Anyway, we started the day off pretty well with everything deployed on schedule! I fixed some more of our sonar stuff through the use of some cave diving reels (basically spools of heavy thread) and zip ties. Then the day kicked in...
The second boat that was delivering our new shipment of seagrass and a visiting member of Congress ended up being almost 2 hours later than originally anticipated! This tends to throw scheduling off, especially when it comes to the experiments, but we made do. The really unfortunate part was when we got back to the habitat and realized that all of our seagrass had floated off from our mesh bag. I'm still not quite sure how, but I imagine in haste and rush it ended up escaping the cinched bag I was carrying it in. Unfortunately this means we're dependent upon the wonderful Burkepile lab to deliver some more, but it won't be in time for tomorrow. Alas, these things happen and we are making the best of it by conducting some surveys to quantify what species are in the area, and numbers as well! This is probably something we should do anyway, as the more you know about a research site, the better you can answer any possible questions and pick up on trends!
As it goes, field science is often all about improvisation on the fly to make things work as you had them planned. For instance, one of the floats for my calibration sphere was lost to the surface during deployment! I was able to make a quick fix using a bottle that we had in the habitat as a float. It actually works quite well!
That said, even a semi-bad day underwater is incredibly exciting and engaging! We had a few new encounters recently when a rather large barracuda (4-5 feet long) has started to hang around the wet porch. This guy has absolutely no fear whatsoever and is actually quite curious about our activities! Although I think his ulterior motives are the little fish that hang underneath our SCUBA gear (in the pic above), he always inches closer and closer to us as we sit in the wet porch as if to say hello. Even the meanest neighbors are good neighbors when they're on your side right?
We also made a new friend at our study site! A local grouper likes to hang out in this barrel sponge. Not on it, not around it, but in it! It really reminds me of a house cat that likes to hide in boxes. We see him almost every day on the way to and from our site and he seems to be quite content there. I believe it is probably one of the cleaning stations that I spoke about in a previous post, but he'd be pretty dirty if he spent so much time there just for a cleaning, so I like to think he's just cozy!
Well that just about does it for today. Hard to believe it, but we begin decompression on Monday around 11 am! This means only 4 nights left on this wonderful and unique journey to the bottom of the sea. Time to make the next few days really count!
All the best,
Hey folks, hope you're all warm and dry for me... it's chilly down here with the AC at full capacity again! We seem to really be getting in the groove of things... we were in the water and heading out to our sites -early- today! Something that we haven't as of yet been able to do, despite Ryan's best attempts to shuffle us out the door on time. Got our calibration sphere from yesterday deployed, just in time for a visiting diver to get tangled in our lines and fudge it all up. So. Tomorrow! We hope.....
We also had a visitor from high up in the ranks of Lockheed Martin, the global defense and airplane contractor. They make some pretty impressive stuff for the defense of our (and others) borders. It's weird, and also pretty cool, how this desire to defend what is our is something that transcends time, and species. All over the reef, mini-battles are being fought for the best grazing territories, homes, and the right to reproduce!
The sergeant majors the were guarding their eggs the other day are a pretty good example of that tenacity to defend yourself, and you don't have to go far to find more! While waiting for the visitor from Lockheed to exit the habitat, we had to hang outside the wet porch. There's a really nice sponge growing there, and it's home to a number of bicolor damselfish. These guys don't get much bigger than a few inches, but are fierce defenders of their homes, which are usually between sponges, rocks, and other crevices. The minute you put your hand near them... bam!
Go a little farther from the habitat, and you can see defense on a little wider of a scale! This is a little patch of the reef that actually reminds me of home, short of any stereotypical white picket fences. Here a dusky damselfish has set up a farm of algae! They actually tend to certain patches of reef, and pick away algae they don't want, so that only the edible and nutritious algae grow for them. Of course this is a lot of work and so others want in on it. Usually the fish don't allow that for very long though, in the same manner that farmers don't allow people stealing their crops (here's looking at you family!). I didn't see any duskies defending their farm, but a group of brown chromis spent some time fending off some filefish and a midnight parrotfish that were trying to eat food in their territory! Even though the fish were many times larger, they had no trouble driving them off!
It's funny, you hear the saying that people eventually start looking like their dogs, significant others, etc. We've clearly begun taking a page from the fishes here, as we have each carved our own individual niche into the habitat. Not literally, of course, as the habitat is solid steel. But we all have our own particular areas where we work, hang out, and feel safe. We often get annoyed and stressed when people put their things in our areas, and whilst we don't bite each other like the fish, we definitely make sure the people know what they did through some friendly ribbing.
Of course humans being territorial is nothing new, as several world wars and thousands of years of history have shown. It is however, interesting to see the connection and be reminded that we are just as much a part of the natural world, that we are just as shaped by it as the numerous organisms that we share it with. Of course this means we are also just as dependent upon it and should cherish it accordingly!
Pictured above is a nice scorpionfish directly under the area the filefish were feeding. They are so concerned with convincing others that they're rocks, they will not move if you poke them. Great for photo shoots!
Also had a great Skype today with the Baltimore Aquarium and one of their student groups. So glad my friends that still work there were able to help us hook something up. If you're ever in Baltimore and get the chance to visit, be sure to do so as it's something you don't want to miss! Anyway, up again at 4:45 am tomorrow to get out and collect some more reef information. Those of us shifting up top on the 17th have begun sending up non-essential items to the surface world. Strange to think of leaving already, feels like we just got here.
Today is the 11th day of our underwater expedition! And coincidentally, the birthday of Jacques-Yves Cousteau. An incredibly interesting man who enlightened the world and ignited a passion for ocean exploration on levels that hasn't been matched since. We hope to continue that legacy here and rekindle that same fascination that the world once had with one of our greatest resources. In his honor, we all donned red hats today, the same kind that he was famous for wearing (and also of Life Aquatic Fame). It's an interesting story, Jacques wore these hats because the original hard hat divers wore them inside their helmets to make pressing buttons with the head easier. Crew members on their boats wore blue caps, but they wore red and so do we!
Today was a better day than yesterday on the research front! We managed to collect both AM and PM samples of seagrass densities, and continue seeing interesting trends developing! Fabien had a really good Skype call with the governor of Florida, who apparently wasn't aware that Aquarius even existed before now. Hopefully this mission will bring some much needed awareness to this unique little home on the sea floor! We also keep hearing murmurs of, "If this had been a normal mission, we'd be decompressed and on the surface already!", followed quickly by a "I know, how cool is it that we're still here." For our technicians and Fabien, the journey isn't even halfway over yet! As for me and Andy, we've only got 5 days of work left...
Our work day was changed up a bit for some quality control assurance! As with most scientific equipment, sonars occasionally need calibration to ensure the accuracy of their results! To do this, we require the use of a very finely honed calibration sphere, pictured right. These spheres have a known response to a sonar frequency that we can compare to our actual results and fine tune them using the difference in results. Quite useful, but they need to be deployed in front of the sonar beam to be measured, which is a little tricky from the bottom. Unfortunately today one of our floats used to hold the sphere broke off it's fishing line and floated away, but we'll be back at it again tomorrow!
We also got to help Otter out with some regular maintenance. In this case, we were cleaning off the symbol of friendship between NOAA and NASA, the two government agencies most heavily involved in the Aquarius. Was pretty cool, and they keep a cover on the plaque so the buildup wasn't really too bad.
Had some pretty cool new sights today when we noticed that suddenly is was very dark in the middle of the day! It felt as if a rainstorm was blowing in, so at first I didn't even think twice, but when I looked up I noticed that sargassum had completely covered the sun! Sargassum, which is a type of floating algae, is definitely not rare around here, but I've never seen it in such large quantities before. What's cool about these big rafts is that they're often associated with large groupings of fish, and even have their own species of crabs and invertebrates that only live on the sargassum! They're big floating cities, basically. In the open ocean this tends to attract tons of organisms, as it is often the only cover and structure for them to shelter under. Of course, all of it has to go somewhere when it meets the land, and occasionally it ends up all over the beach and stuck in canals (I took those pics shortly before coming down).
That's it for the day I think, as usual it's over and I'm not ready for it to be. Now that Andy is better and back in the water, we're going to begin working on some more of the Northeastern Projects, including towing for plankton around the habitat with a big net! Excited to get back out there and play with my handheld sonar as well. Getting some interesting videos from it, and the more we can get the better! From the bottom of the ocean, have a great night!
Today has been a day of new experiences! For instance, today we experienced our first day of relatively high ocean current, which was closing in on one knot (which is about 1.7 feet per second!). Swimming against it was very difficult, and walking on the umbilical was nearly impossible as it blew all of our cords into random outcroppings where they would get lodged. Add the fact that we were setting up a new site into the equation, and the result is that you miss the morning data collection. Still, these things happen in field work, and we got on our day as usual despite that fact! Just what that day consists of, actually, may be a mystery to some, so I've decided to walk through the average day of a Mission 31 aquanaut scientist!
Our day starts pretty early (at least for my standards), and we are up by 4:45 or 5 am [insert something about early fish and a worm]. We chug down as much coffee as we can and prep for the morning run. That usually means that I'm focusing on backing up the data from the night before and preparing it to be shipped to the surface, and Andy is prepping our gigantic collection of GoPros for the study. At 6 am sharp we are in our wetsuits and don our work helmets for the morning! Once we untangle our respective umbilicals we head to the site and begin to deploy our fake groupers, with Andy measuring the photosynthetic ability of his corals first. With three people out there (Fabien or Kip are also along to help out with the work), umbilical management is incredibly important, both for mobility and the health of the reef. It's a skill we've been getting much better at!
Once our grouper, seagrass, and GoPro cameras are placed we head back to the habitat and let it run for the next hour. We don't go back inside, so this frees up some time for other side projects that we are working on. This includes some work with our diver-held imaging sonar, the DIDSON. Aside from being one of the coolest gadgets I've ever had the chance to work with (it is used by Navy SEALS and has a -really- sweet heads up display that goes over your mask and puts Call of Duty to shame), it can get a lot of data on fish in the water column! We have used this information previously to examine things such as the approach distance that prey will get to a predator, schooling behavior, measure fish lengths, and even obtain the information on pitch and roll of a target. When coupled with a new type of sonar that we are deploying, we can get even more information in ways that no one else has before, so I'm excited for this little side project!
With the hour up, we go and deflate our groupers, collect the seagrass, and head back into the habitat. After showering off, the next step is to take care of the equipment and data! When working in sea water it is critical to fresh water rinse all of your equipment... if you'd like to ever use it again, that is! We usually then find some time for breakfast, which is some freeze dried eggs and bacon, or biscuits and gravy if we're lucky!
This puts us at around 10 am, at which point we must hurriedly cut new lengths of seagrass, enter in the number and amounts of seagrass that has been eaten under different treatments, and participate in 1-3 Skype outreach calls! I say hurriedly, because we get back in the water at 11:30 for our next run! On this run, we deploy more seagrass and groupers, and assess the corals with the PAM once more at noon. We then have a little time to work on the side projects again, and we hope to begin helping with the projects from Northeastern University as soon as Andy is better! Until then, more DIDSON time!
We come in around 2:30ish, and finally have a chance to prepare a real meal like this chili and roast beef sandwich. This is a rare treat, as bread goes bad almost in a day, and we had all of the fresh meats and chili shipped down that same morning! Man was it delicious though. We then enter the afternoon data into our spreadsheet, troubleshoot any problems we may have had, and prepare for the next . By the time we finish, it is usually around 5 pm, and we finally have a few moments to check messages, respond to important emails, and check Facebook. Usually I manage to sneak in a nap at this point as I don't think I could get by without it. Finally, it's 8 pm, and time for our final dive of the day, in which we have to go assess coral photosynthetic ability at night! This usually only requires one person, so Andy and I switch off every other day. I don't mind, as it gives me some more time outside to explore the night world. You can usually see us outside on the deck at this time on one of the live cameras!
By the time we finish, get inside, clean everything, and shower off, it's usually around 9:30 or 10 pm. It's funny, we've all noticed how we've been progressively going to bed earlier and earlier as we didn't go to bed until 11:30 or midnight on the first few nights here. I should probably be going to bed at this point like everyone else usually does, but I like to check in with everyone and update this here blog before I do. When I do get to bed, I'm usually out like a light and even when I slept on the floor I don't wake up in the middle of it!
There it is, the complete day of an Aquanaut scientist. It's a whirlwind of constant activity, problem solving, and wonderment at where we're at! It's nice to be entering data, look up, and see a red snapper staring back at you through your view port in curiosity. Tomorrow we will be getting our first full day in at the new study site, and have a few new visitors coming down as usual! Starting to realize that we're already past the halfway point, and in only 7 days I will be back on the surface. It's a weird mix of sadness and happiness that I can actually dry out! I doubt I will ever experience something like this again and I will cherish every moment that I can.
It's already the end of another day! With Andy unable to SCUBA with an ear infection, I was working with one of the habitat technicians for part of the day on deploying our equipment. What a technician he is though, Otter (Mark Hulsbeck) has logged over 200 days on Aquarius! Extremely knowledgeable and great to get along with, it's good to know we're under his care down here. Had a really cool Skype call with a university from Honduras (thanks for coming down to translate Aileen!), and we may even end up collaborating with them in the future!
Experiment-wise, we quickly conducted our first preliminary analyses on our data today and discussed them with Andy's adviser, Dr. Deron Burkepile. Not quite what we have been expecting, but that's not always a bad thing and it is exciting to see where we're gonna end up with it! We've moved our study site to a new area (thanks Ryan!) so that we can examine if there are differences in sites, or if the trends we are witnessing hold in new areas!
While again waiting for our decoys to "soak" and scare the fish, I noticed some very odd behavior on the work deck! Several groups of Sergeant Majors (pictured below) were doing a circular dance and rubbing themselves on what appeared to be some sort of coralline or algal growth on the habitat. Investigating further, I noticed it was actually a bunch of eggs!
It was really impressive to watch the constant care of the eggs by the parents! Unfortunately, in the area there are -plenty- of barracuda and I feared that we would soon have a "Finding Nemo" scenario. One quick approach for some filming resolved that idea for me though, they immediately broke off and began ferociously nipping and biting at me! Though it didn't hurt, this would be more likely to scare a fish predator off and maybe think twice about an easy meal. What you don't see in the video below is that every time he goes off camera, he is biting at me!
The cool day continued while walking back out to collect our equipment. Some Spotted Eagle Rays decided to drop by the habitat and hang out for a while! Incredibly docile to divers and rather large, these guys are mid-water predators and are even known for leaping out of the water like a whale breaching. I managed to catch one eating and you can see the schooling behavior of the yellowtail snapper and creole wrasse after it leaves as they try to protect themselves.
That just about does it for today! Tomorrow CBS will be around filming us as we deploy our experiments for the day. Pretty exciting and I don't even have to hear my own voice since we will be SCUBA diving, haha. In other news I found out I will be traveling to Nome, Alaska on the 6th of July for a little while for some work there. It's going to be a very busy summer. O.o
See you tomorrow!
Hello all! End of another amazingly fast day here at the bottom of the ocean. Time passes so fast... maybe it's because a lot of senses are distorted by being underwater. Our research continues as slated, with results being added daily! Surprisingly, nearly impossibly, things have been going well thus far on that end. For the non-scientists, we usually expect a healthy amount of equipment failure and hardship in any experiment, especially in the field. Thankfully that hasn't been the case for the most part here, and I know I am going to regret saying that later!
We had some more interesting visitors today, including Ian Somerhalder from Vampire Diaries. I only know him as the brother of a character in Lost who died really early in the series. However he was a really cool dude, and it was a pleasure meeting him! He is involved in some coral restoration projects that are really beneficial and it's encouraging to see some actors having a good influence on environmental concerns. That's him diving with us in the center of the picture. It was actually a thought-provoker, being visited by a vampire, as they are creatures of the night. So tonight after I finished testing the corals for their photosynthetic capabilities, I set aside a little time with a flashlight to explore just the very walls and floors of the outer Aquarius habitat at night. It's like a different world!
You first start to see some changes in the life around Aquarius as it starts getting dark. This is known as the crepuscular period, and fisherman will know that sometimes this is the best time to fish as activity briefly increases! Complete darkness, however, brings about some changes in behavior... like this little fish here nestled in among some of the invasive (but beautiful!) cup corals.
With most of the fish either less active, or hiding, other things start to come out that may normally be easy pickings during the day. Like this fire-worm here. You can't find them at all during the day, but hundreds come out of hiding at night! We call them fire worms because there are little needles filled with a toxin, that break off into your skin should you brush up against it. They're also pretty ferocious predators of the little critters that live on the bottom. I stalked a few for a little while trying to catch them eating, but no luck.
As it darkens, more things open up, and come out to the world. This bristle covered hole in the center of the photo is actually a bivalve who stays shut during most of the day! He's again, surrounded by those cup corals. The corals themselves are pretty cool as they are constantly filtering the water for little plankton to eat! You can see them below doing just that. Every time one of the tentacles twitch, it is catching some type of unlucky plankton that happened to get too close.
I started noticing more and more things that I have never seen before, like this guy here. He is actually a type of mollusc, pretty closely related to a snail or slug. At first I thought he initially had a sea urchin stuck to his back, but then I just realized it was a single organism! Very cool, never seen anything like it before.
It was a really great experience to have as much time as I wanted just to walk around, and observe things on the bottom at night. Night dives are possible and happen all the time, however we can be here as long as we'd like, giving us the opportunity to see things we may never have seen otherwise. I'm really excited to get back out there tomorrow and check out some more creatures of the night. That is, if I make it through the day! It's going to be a busy day 9, as we now have to switch our experiment sites to prevent the fish from getting used to our treatments! That's on top of all of the regular daily chores like Skype calls and data entry. Will be a fun, but busy experience.
Happy World Ocean's Day everyone!
Oh, and just for fun, I looked at some corals under a red light. Pretty cool results! :D
Small town girl from Pennsylvania with webbed fingers. Marine biology is my thing, and I am lucky enough to be participating in one of the most exciting undertakings of my life!