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March 15, 2003: Leg 3, Day #4

On our way to Guaymas Basin 
Today's update has been
provided by George Matsumoto.

Mar15_map.jpg (70211 bytes)We have left La Paz and are steaming back toward the Farallon Basin. We recovered the vehicle last night, and then we set off toward La Paz after hearing that our ships agent had located a regulator for our oxygen cylinder and managed to secure our net out of Guadalajara. The R/V Western Flyer launched the "Spare RHIB" (Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat) when we were just off of the dock. The Spare RHIB went to shore to collect the net and the regulator (see image within the map). We then turned around and headed back to yesterday's position. We expect to be onsite and ready to dive around 1400 or 1500 hours. This will be a short and shallow dive as we will be using Dr. Edie Widder's special bioluminescence camera to conduct transects in the upper 1000 meters. Check back here tomorrow to see how the dive went from Dr. Widder's perspective. You can also see daily updates from Dr. Widder on the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution website at http://www.at-sea.org/missions/cortez/preview.html. More later...

It's 1:15 p.m., and we have just launched the ROV Tiburon in the Farallon Basin. We're at 25 27.0071N and 109 50.0021 W diving in the midst of a huge red tide. We stopped on station, and we were surrounded by a wide layer of dinoflagellates. Don't know if they are toxic or not, but the water is pretty empty and there are lots of moribund jellies floating at the surface. Kim ReisenbichlerSteve Haddock, and Karen Osborn are taking off for a blue water dive. Kim has a detritus sampler from the ROV. He is also going to be a "human detritus sampler" and will attempt to collect a larvacean and a house for Dr.William Hamner (UCLA). We are hoping to be able to watch the larvacean build a house in the lab. It's so unusual to see them in shallow water it is just amazing to be able to SCUBA dive and look at something in person that we have only seen on video screens for over ten years! Since they are at ambient seawater temperature, we don't have to try and study them in chilled seawater. The animals collected will be placed into a plankton kreisel (designed by Dr. Hamner several years ago) and hopefully will build a house.

Late update from the blue-water SCUBA diversthe dinoflagellate layer is wide but very thin. It starts right at the thermocline and is only a few centimeters thick. The oxygen regulator arrived, and Brad Seibel has gotten his equipment set up and workingjust waiting for some animals to put into the chambers. Brad will be able to collect blood oxygen binding data for a range of cephalopod species. Each animal is run through 10 different oxygen levels for several minutes, which means Brad will be working late into the night after many of us have gone to bed. The trawl net (above) has also arrived. Kim Reisenbichler and Jeff Drazen worked all morning getting the rigging ready so that we can tow. Here's an image of Jeff (see left) with the Precision Depth Recorder. This ancient instrument will record the depth that the net is fishing.

Today's ROV dive will be short as we lost some time with our transit into La Paz last night. Because of that, Edie Widder will be doing her bioluminescent transects, which can only go down to 1000 meters. Otherwise her special camera housing will leak. It was designed for Harbor Branch's Johnson Sea Link subs, which only go down to 1000 meters. We did have some problems hooking up the acoustic current meter (ACM) as the 12- volt power on the ROV was not behaving. So the pilots (Dave French and Jim Cohen in this picture) opened up one of the waterproof housings to get to the 24- volt power and send that to the ACM which will take 24- volt power.

Even with the short ROV dive, we managed to collect a few jellies, spiders, and some cephalopods. As we work up these specimens, we will try and provide you with more information about them. One thing is clear, life in the Gulf of California is diverse, rich, and extremely interesting. The research that we are starting here will keep us busy for many months to come. We are learning an awful lot, but I already know that I would like to come back and spend even more time in this area.

Once we finish up here, we're going to be heading further north into the Guaymas Basin for a couple of days of ROV operations, SCUBA, and trawling. A typical day there will consist of 12 hours of ROV operations (6 a.m. to 6 p.m.), a SCUBA dive (around 10 am), and then trawling from 6 pm to midnight. Then, we can start to process the animals and information that we've collected. We won't do any trawling tonight because we wouldn't get on station tomorrow until later in the day. So come back and check out the updates over the next week to see and read about what we've collected with the trawl.

We were visited by a small plane this afternoon that buzzed the boat fairly low a few times and then it went away. Just as we were finishing up the last of the biolum transects (50 meter depth), the recovery process was interrupted by the bridge informing us that we were being boarded by the Mexican Navy. The Jacobs Ladder went over the side, and two Mexican Navy personnel came aboard. They were greeted by our collaborator, Rebeca Gasca Serrano, and were taken up to the bridge. It seems that they didn't know we were in the area, but once they saw our permits, everything was okay. Rebeca and Darryl Palmer gave them a tour of the boat, which included an impromtu session on siphonophores by Steve Haddock in the wet lab. The Lt. used to be a marine biologist and was very interested in what we were doing. Although his English was excellent, it was comforting to have Rebeca helping to interpret. The Lt. said that he would pass on the word that MBARI and the R/V Western Flyer were operating with permission in the Gulf of California.

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