Mobilisation and the first days at sea

The DeepSeaCRU made touchdown in Galway midday Weds 15th July to begin mobilisation of equipment onto the Celtic Explorer. After reaching the dock, it was soon evident we had been horrendously organised shipping all our pallets a week prior and that the crew were exceptionally efficient, so mobilisation was well underway.


Happily, this left time for exploring Galway, the jam-packed rockpools it harbours and the dubious discovery of the lesser spotted Sea Ferret. Oh yes…and we have seen whales!

5am Friday 17th July 2015 saw the unexpected start of the “Mapping the Deep” cruise. Although meticulously planned, someone forgot the book the flat, calm, tropical paradise conditions for leaving Galway, and to even leave port was a stroke of genius manoeuvring from the bridge. We headed out into 40 knot winds and 4.5 m swell, proceeding onwards and upwards….and down and up and down and up…. Sea sickness was inevitable (the DeepSeaCRU learnt at a pub quiz the night before departure this is known as Naupathia, although I don’t think it makes it feel any better…).

Overnight, the weather calmed, and equipment testing has been able to get underway. On board, we have the gorgeous beast that is Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) Holland-1, which will take video transects across each of our selected stations. The aim is to verify sponge aggregation models for Pheronema carpenteri and monitor cold-water coral reefs habitat recovery. Both of these habitats are classed as Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems (VME’s) and provide an array of ecosystem services, not least of all a nursery habitat for juvenile fish species and so are vital to be monitored for their effective ongoing management to sustain our UK and Irish fisheries.


The glowing globule below, although reminiscent of Flubber, is actually a rather ingenious solution to measuring flow rates of the sponges in situ. This will be attached to the arm of Holland-1 a work in tandem with the video transects. Watch this space for awesome video updates!


We have also dry-tested the Marine Institute’s CTD to check the Niskin bottles on board all fire smoothly. This was a fantastic opportunity to train up undergraduates from NUIG with invaluable knowledge of how to run the system. Projects associated with the CTD vary widely, from descriptive papers on deep water picoplankton, to radium isotope analysis and the effects of internal waves on sediment resuspension covered in later blogs.


So for the time being, having now overcome the effects of Naupathia, we are ready to go and being very well fed in the process thank you to the very accommodating chefs. The only on board risk encountered so far is high probability of returning twice the size we left in 2 weeks’ time thanks to good food and poor willpower…

text by Amber Cobley.

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