every morning (well, those when we aren’t still in the lab at daybreak), we are awakened by an announcement at 7am.  today, it went like this: ‘good morning, everybody.  ship’s time is seven o’clock.  today is friday, the 13th of november.  we are still drifting at the station.’
two things about this announcement struck me, although i didn’t think them related at the time.  first, it’s friday the 13th.  second, we should have had two nekton samples, starting around 4am, and the station should have been finished by now.  yet here i was, still happily in bed.
it turned out there may have been a connection after all, at least to anyone of a superstitious nature.  while reeling in the first nekton trawl, just as the catch was being lifted from the water, the cable holding the net snapped – literally, twang, ends flying and crew on deck ducking for cover. this could have been completely disastrous, but by extreme luck, it wasn’t – no one was injured, and what’s more, the net wasn’t lost.  the seaward end of the snapped cable wrapped itself twice around the top of the gantry used to deploy and retrieve the net, securing itself in place in just about the most unlikely way possible.  so the net dangled, but in relative security, until an additional cable could be secured to reel it in.  (this was all related to me over breakfast, just before i spilled my cup of tea over most of the table – i’d like to say that that was also abnormal bad luck, but i should probably just confess that i’m not the most coordinated person in the morning.)
when the catch was finally brought in, we weren’t sure what it would hold, and what condition it would be in after all the morning’s drama and delay. but we should have predicted that if there was one day of this cruise destined to bring in Vampyroteuthis infernalis, the vampire squid, friday the 13th would be it.  and not one, but two specimens – both small (mantles about the size of a walnut and an almond), but in quite good condition, relatively.  Vampyroteuthis is an ancient order of cephalopods, with a very gelatinous body and thin, delicate skin that ranges in color from brick red to deep purple-black.  it looks like a small octopus, with eight shortish arms and a deep web, but it also has paddle-shaped fins and two photophores (light organs) at the end of the mantle, and two tentacle-like sensory filaments that retract into pouches near the first (dorsal) pair of arms. our larger specimen was in better shape, although its mantle was inside out (we gently rectified this before fixing it in formalin).  the oral face of its arms and web were deep, solid, inky black and the tiny finger-like cirri on the arms could still be seen.  the eyes were perfect and some shreds of delicate skin still clung to the mantle and fins, and both photophores were present.  although Vampyroteuthis is not terribly rare in the oceans, specimens of it are rare, especially in decent condition, so today we consider ourselves lucky indeed.

sealog 7: what luck

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Advertisements