on monday night we reached our first ‘superstation,’ a central point around which we would deploy several kinds of sampling gear.  ten superstations are planned for the voyage, with 5-10 separate samples to be taken at each – a variety of benthic, mid-water and surface biological samples, plus hydrological, acoustic and geological data.
the first net (midwater, the most likely to catch squid) was shot at about 1am and recovered around 3.30.  those who would work with the specimens collected in this sample (the fish team and ceph-heads) had rested in advance, napping during the previous day and in the earlier part of the evening, since the catch would need to be sorted and photographed while fresh.  the fish people would first sort out their animals, then pass the rest of the sample on to the other squid guy and me for second sorting; we would pull out any cephalopods, and photograph, ID, and fix them in formalin, and fix the rest of the sample as well.
when the first net was retrieved, bad luck had struck again (an earlier test run of the benthic gear had suffered two malfunctions) –  the cable designed to hold the net open while sampling had come loose at one end, so the net had essentially been towed with the mouth either slack or mostly closed. the entire sample was about two handsful.  but there were some interesting things – hatchetfish, some very toothy deep-sea fish with interesting lights and barbels, several different kinds of shrimp, and two small squid.
while the net was being repaired, a plankton net was towed from the ship’s bow, but no cephs came in.  the second deployment of the larger net, however, which finished around 6am, was much more satisfactory, containing about 45 small squid and octopus, from five different families.  these included some baby argonauts, a small species of squid called Pterygioteuthis gemmata with absolutely beautiful opalescent photophores (light organs), and a ridiculous-looking cranchiid squid called Cranchia scabra, whose mantle is a transparent, perfect sphere, and covered with pointy tubercles that make it look like an inside-out golf ball.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

over the course of that day (tuesday), two more relevant tows came in, bringing representatives of another three families, from the squid group i study to a couple of very strange gelatinous octopuses.  all up we had about 100 specimens, all fascinating and mostly in excellent condition (enough so to keep us wide awake working until after dinner; then we crashed, and slept a large portion of the next day as well).  so the eight days’ travel just to reach the first station were worth it, and hopefully the remaining ~3 weeks will be just as good!

Advertisements