February 4, 2016
On a fine sunny day tucked away inside Isla Wager, I was left behind on Saoirse with Greg while the entire team went out to survey our first dead whale of the expedition. Although the balmy seaside afternoon surely called for a cold beer and a lawn chair, we elected instead to busy ourselves with some general repairs and soft scientific sampling.
Greg lent me some epoxy to fix my mildly crushed surfboard, and while it cured in the sun I threw on my wetsuit to survey Saoirse’s hull. Armed with a mask and a screwdriver, my mission was to find the hole where the pilothouse’s starboard drain comes out, and dig out whatever might be blocking it.
After a few dives it was fairly easy to clear out some poorly positioned barnacles from the innards of the ship’s superficial piping. It seems as if the drain’s valve might be somewhat rusted, seeing as even some forceful underwater whacks with the screwdriver weren’t enough to reopen the floodgates. Either way, we still got some good shots of the state of the hull—which is looking pretty all-right, actually. Only some slight typical slime and a handful of barnacles. Nothing major.
If you haven’t heard it from our oceanographers yet, tell your friends you heard it here first: the water is WARM. Forget the historic diatribes of grim voyages through the cold and the wind and the rain. Super El Niño rules here in the Golfo de Penas, Chile—calm winds, 28ºC weather and 18ºC water!
All that glamour created extremely conducive conditions for the testing of a new scientific sampling method for aggregate pelagic invertebrates. Instead of wasting energy tossing around gangly plankton nets, we decided to up efficiency and directly go grab some little squat lobsters using the Swim-Jar Method.
Efficiency, I say!
Next month, these few Munida subrugosa I snatched will be analyzed in a laboratory for the presence of harmful red tide toxins. Baleen whales, such as the 337 mysteriously deceased ones of our study, are known to feed on swarms of these red squat lobsters. A potential presence of toxins in Munida in the region may provide a missing link in the events leading up to the whales’ death. Until then, all speculation is up to our imagination, and we may only ponder these little red creatures under the sun, and under the boat.
Until next time,