Today was a great day. The weather got steadily better and the waves dropped to nearly calm. We started taking grabs off the Moray Firth coast, finding everything from worms to sea squirts. Deeper grabs produced brittlestars with enormous long arms twisting round in the dishes as photos were taken. The best find of the day was a tiny hermit crab from over 100m depth. We’re not sure which species it is, so we’ll let him be looked at by experts after the survey has finished.
After taking grabs we launched the ROV and did two transects – one over soft mud with Pennatula sea pens and a few squat lobsters. There was also an octopus and a lot of interesting fish. The second was at the deepest point of the Southern Trench – a potential Marine Protected Area in the Moray Firth. The ROV descended to over 220m and found slopes of mud interspersed with boulders covered in hydroids and anemones, with small spindly crabs wrapped around them and nudibranchs eating away at the flower-like heads of the hydroids. So that was our day. But I forget the most important parts. Firstly, there was amazing cake, and secondly, the sun set perfectly in a big red globe just as the ROV was ascending. You can’t get better than nudibranchs, cake, and learning new species.
Becky Hitchin, JNCC Marine Ecologist
Beeld: Juan Cuetos, Carlos Minguell, OCEANA