by Silvia García – 31 July 2016
Last day of the campaign, whether we like it or not. I tried to arrange to stay another month, but they tell me that it’s impossible. They have no heart! Thirty dives, with Carlos and Enrique carrying the cameras, Juan as chief diver I, Aaron as chief diver II, and Cris, the cook who became a diver (or was it the other way round?). One hundred and twelve ROV dives (that’s right, 112!) with Albert at the controls of the ROV and David his ROV copilot (congratulations to the ROV team, right David?) and 60 samples of different specimens. All of it information that will be thoroughly processed to achieve a literally profound understanding of marine life in Malta. Seamanship without fear of hard work: Marta, Kike, Alex, Aaron and Juan. Rubén and Pere, first officer and captain, managing this troop without trepidation, which is no small feat. And adding the coolest catamaran in the Mediterranean to this superb team, we could hardly expect anything other than the tremendous campaign that we’ve had.
The finite infinite
by Marta Fernández – 30 July 2016
Today we are already close to the end of the campaign. You can feel it in the atmosphere, which is a mixture of restlessness and sadness and trying to enjoy these last moments. Today involved diving in caves, with the divers excited and focused on their last dives, and us in the zodiak sailing below the wonderful cliffs and vertical, layered walls, with their holes and sparse vegetation, shelter for the shearwaters and gulls … breathtaking slopes … allowing me so many meditative moments as we rode over the waves and followed the bubbles of our companions. Another moment of bidding farewell to the work on the Ranger has to do with the figures of eight of the “umbilical cord” for the manoeuvring of the ROV. In the shifts when it has to be coiled, in the bow nets … alone, with the sea and the sound of the engines, you start coiling in eights, which viewed in profile can be seen as the symbol of infinity, , one on top of another … more cable … 800 metres of “infinity” that never ends … and yet this time, this infinite comes to an end: the expedition in Malta is over and I leave work, boat and all the team, grateful and emotional and with a feeling of “see you soon”.
Points of view
by Silvia García – 29 July 2016
Until a few years ago, the diaries were written almost exclusively by the scientists on board. As expected, we focused on the ROV dives carried out or those by the divers, we documented species and habitats, whale sightings, birds, turtles and rubbish on the surface. Occasionally, a colleague would offer to write and would give you a break and offer a new point of view of the campaign. Perhaps it would be an ROV technician, one of the divers or the cook. Now, and from quite recently, this method has become the norm and everyone on board writes diaries. A different member of crew every day, with a set timetable. And, even if this means we have follow the day’s author around, repeating the phrase “Hey, you owe me a diary” like some kind of mantra, it seems that the formula is working. In this way we are discovering, even within the crew, new points of view, each more interesting than the last, that we would never have had without the diaries of these improvised authors. So, thank you very much everyone for the moments you have spent writing, for the goodwill you have shown, since this is not part of your work, and the laughter and surprises that you have provided with your great diaries.
The Creation of Marine Protected Areas
by Enrique Talledo – 28 July 2016
Hello again, I want to take advantage of this, my last diary of this expedition, to explain the reason for so much effort, both human and financial, and the enthusiasm and total dedication that we all share. You might wonder why the MPAs are created and whether it is worth it. I asked myself the same question at one time … Over many years, I have been able to get to know many protected areas first hand, and I can confirm that they are not just a good idea, but that these days they are necessary, absolutely essential. With this situation, there is an urgent need to create marine protected areas and extend many of those that already exist. The benefits to society are extraordinary, bearing in mind that we rely heavily on marine resources, and that tourism and fishing are the main source of income in many places. Let’s hope that, within a few decades, these Mediterranean waters that we are studying today show the same or greater biodiversity than a century ago.
by Alex Blanco – 27 July 2016
After ten days on board the Ranger, I can only say that it’s been a wonderful experience to share my hours of work and rest with the entire crew. The work, the Ranger, the people, all of it … Fantastic!!!
by Pere Valera – 26 July 2016
The sea and the sky might be the two halves of the same sphere. And we seafarers are used to sailing the sometimes unpredictable surface that separates them. In this campaign I have learned something about observing the part of the sphere that we cannot see with just our eyes. And the similarities (and obviously the differences) between the two halves are striking. But today I’m going to talk about the half we can see simply by looking up, and so observe its fauna: the clouds. Just like marine animals that specialise according to the depth at which they live, these celestial animals called clouds also differ according to the altitude at which they are created and nurtured. And so we have the fibrous and silky “cirrus”, created from tiny ice crystals. Formed from altitudes of 5 km or above, there are 3 types: cirrus, cirrocumulus and cirrostratus, and these in turn, like corals with suggestive scientific names, are divided into other varieties with poetic names such as “cirrocumulus stratiformis undulatus”.
At a height of between 2 and 5 km we find the clouds that are classified as “high”: altocumulus, altostratus and nimbostratus; each also with its different varieties, names and characteristics. And below 2 km have “stratus”: stratocumulus, stratus, cumulus, cumulonimbus. These last two varieties are also described as having vertical development, as they can reach heights where the cirrus reign, and at the same time touch the surface where we live, and often violently. And then there is the fog which is no more than a stratus that caresses the surface dividing the two halves of the sphere that I mentioned before. And let’s hope we will also be capable of protecting the space where these magnificent and ever-changing creatures live, so that we can look up and see all their beauty and understand what they are saying to us.
Don’t Count Your Chickens before They Hatch
by Rubén González – 25 July 2016
The days go by and the end of the campaign approaches. There is little less than a week left but you have to control the urge to return home, because the accidents occur when you let your guard down. If sailing in the ocean and past campaigns have taught me anything it is to begin and end at the same pace. I have come across people who give it their all on the first day of a voyage. They often fall victim to the fatigue of the sea and are all too soon defeated, especially in bad weather. From yacht racing I learned that you have to have a clear mind so that everything is done in the shortest possible time and so leads to victory. Only then can you lower a spinnaker with several boats coming on at full speed and stuck close together, hunting for the leeward mark, while you can feel the tension in the air. What a wonderful feeling, and only those who stay calm in the bow succeed in escaping from the pack first. It’s the last day for me in this campaign, and time to bring things to a satisfactory conclusion and then make good use of the time until the next expedition.
A moment of horror at open sea
by Agnes Lisik – 24 July 2016
Last night I was left astonished with such beautiful scenery – just like from a romantic movie – a giant red moon rising over Malta’s shadow, welcomed by fireworks on both edges of the island. The Ranger at night can be like a 5 Million-Star Hotel: a view of the Milky Way and falling stars at sea is breathtaking. Was it calm before the storm?
I was woken up at 6am by waves hitting the hull and the boat rocking—the weather had changed. I went up to the bridge to see the sunrise and have a chat with the captain on guard. It was cloudy, the sea got choppy, the wind was blowing 12-20knots. That was my last day aboard and I felt seasick for the first time, Biodramina pills came in handy. We waited with ROV immersion until the afternoon when the conditions improved.
The manoeuvre was about to finish and the ROV was near the surface when all of a sudden a loud noise and shouts from the crew rushed everybody else onto the deck: the steel cable supporting the ROV had snapped! Luckily, nobody got hurt in this serious accident. But the submarine robot weighting 100kg was being dragged down by a 50kg ballast in free fall into the 800m depth! The crew kept a cool head and the while the captain gave clear orders. Only by tension on their usually smiling faces could you tell that an emergency was going on. The only way to retrieve the ROV was to delicately pull the fragile fibre optic umbilical cable connected with the camera. After heavy effort the ROV finally landed safely on the deck. The stress was over but it served as a reminder that you must always keep alert at the sea. Everybody was exhausted but relieved and sat at the table to enjoy another delicious meal prepared by Cris.
An obulos for Charon
by Aaron Saenz – 23 July 2016
You can still appreciate the moisture of the night absorbed by the cliffs of Dwejra: green, towering, plunging into a calm sea. They are a sight for sore eyes after so much land scorched by the summer sun. We forget about the Ranger, and jump into the water with a coin under our tongues as payment for the ferryman who must open the door to the underworld for us; an unexpected and incredible route via an endless crack, with vaulted ceiling and collapsed walls resting on a distant bed of fine white sand. We advance carefully, knowing that those who are not chosen will wander in its waters for a hundred years. Once inside, wrapped in a darkness that we try to combat with the lights of the cameras, we do not find wandering souls but quite the opposite: the place exudes life that is imperceptible to the naked eye. We do not exist as far as they are concerned, and they do not exist for most of us. Slowly but surely we run out of air, and although we would like to stay, like Heracles, Cerberus or Psyche, our journey must be one of there and back again.
Against the current
by Carlos Minguell – 22 July 2016
Calm sea, hot, but not muggy, and two dives in search of caves. I think most of the people on the expedition would settle for every day being like this one. The first dive was nothing special, but the second was interesting: when trying to go round a cape shortly after setting off, the current began to grow until we were virtually not going forwards, despite kicking fiercely with our flippers to help the electric torpedo that pulls us along under the water. We had to descend to -30m to make progress against the current, following the tortuous relief of the seabed. Rounding the cape, the current relented and when I was considering a dive without caves, and without photos, we found an enormous cavern with a height of about 15m which went into the cliff for more than 100m. There was only the one, but it was monumental.
See you later!
by Cristina Urien – 21 July 2016
This is my last day and the truth is that today is a fairly routine day.
The entire crew is working hooked up to a yellow cord which they call the “umbilical” (yuck!).
The captain blinks vigorously trying to erase the drawing of the plotter from his pupils and keep the Ranger on a straight heading and at constant speed, and with phrases like “South, South-east 02, 01”, he survives on the basis of stretching exercises and French classes for psychopaths.
Rubén with his 2 up, 3 down, full speed ahead!!!!!!, power ball and pennyroyals. Very strange …
David and Albert make the ROV fly over the muddy seabed hoping to find some wall or something a little more entertaining.
Bionic Silva – sorry! The biologist, sitting on the fridge, enthusiastically observing these muddy seabeds where she and only she sees wonderful things, is admirable. I want to be like her when I grow up.
Kike and Carlos, like Harrelson’s men (from SWAT), with their fingers on the trigger and focusing on someone or something, keep shooting photos. In my case, since I don’t fit in the frame, they ask me to reduce my height to 1.60, so that in the photos I appear slightly out of proportion, a bit like an Atapuerca woman with long arms and a big head. But still I continue in the kitchen, making my potions and concoctions and trying not to let Silvia catch me out with schedule changes for the meals. Ha! You’ll never do it, Silviuki!
Thank you very much for everything, and even if I’m Basque and cold (which I’m not at all) I want to give a huge kiss to these people with whom I’ve enjoyed this period of time and those whose paths I hope to cross at some time or other in the future.
So there! Agur, gero arte! (Goodbye, see you later!)
by Albert Ferrer – 20 July 2016
At last we receive an unusual visitor: a military boat. It was half way through the dive – an exciting dive, one of those that tests the mind – speaking clearly, thinking about what you’ll find but never finding it, because there’s nothing but mud, mud, mud and more mud!
Suddenly David and I found ourselves alone in the mess room, me with the joystick and him with the high resolution camera. “That’s strange!” It was the typical comment in the dives when something appears on the surface. And there we were staring at each other and saying, “What shall we do? Shall we go out too?” But we did our duty – especially hard when we are surrounded by nothing – but, always faithful to our Falcon, stayed glued to our seats, and carried on watching nothing on the screen, with the boat adrift and at a depth of 500 m. And that’s the way it stayed for at least 20 minutes, while everyone was with the authorities.
Underwater garden full of marine litter
by Agnes Lisk – 19 July 2016
Today is my first full day at the open sea and my turn to write the diary. I boarded the legendary Ranger full of excitement and anticipation. The adventure has started! I joined the crew but as a landlubber until now I mainly observe and learn how to behave and move onboard without injuring my head. The vessel is permanently in motion and has its own practical order and logic: every object has a handy, fixed and labeled place, every crew member a task assigned, there is no unnecessary movement. The boat is a living creature herself. She makes all sorts of noises and at night swings you to sleep like the sweetest lullaby, a sea cradle.
We left Mgarr port for a three day cruise to explore an area 20 nautical miles south of the island of Gozo. I am very lucky: already during my first day I could glimpse feeding tunas, turtles and even a juvenile swordfish jumping out of water—a precious view due to its heavily overfished status. Dolphins happily joined us and engaged in a frolic race with the catamaran—you can never get enough of them!
The ROV submerged twice and after a couple of hours of researching a muddy bottom we were finally rewarded with a stunning view of an underwater coral garden at almost 500m deep rock. Astonishment mixed with outrage as we witnessed human impact everywhere: ghost nets entangling thousand-year old giant corals like spider web cocooning Christmas tree. The underwater paradise was also cluttered with colorful plastic bags—an artificial invasive “species” introduced by humans. It is so sad to see that the Maltese waters are no longer pristine…
Thanks for everything!
by Juan Marcos – 18 July 2016
Only a few days remain on board the Ranger. On the twenty-third of this month I’ll finish with the campaign in Malta to go and join the campaign in the North Sea. Today Aaron has arrived, our new colleague who will take on the responsibility for diving on board. The professionalism and eagerness to work make the handover quick and easy.
All that’s left is for me is to say goodbye to this diary that I am writing now, voluntarily and under no pressure from the campaigner, and to wish all the best to the colleagues with whom I’ve shared so many things during these two months.
Thanks for everything!
Surprises from a dream in the Ocean
by Enrique Talledo – 17 July 2016
A blue-coloured vastness, protagonist of impossible dreams – that’s the ocean. A massive body of salt water with an infinite range of properties: as cold as -2°C at the poles, or as hot as 35°C in tropical waters; profoundly powerful with waves higher than 25 m, or as calm as a small pond. It’s hard to believe that during the last ice age, 14,000 years ago, the sea level was about 120 metres below where it is today.
This fascinating fact links to today’s experience. The conditions were ideal and we dived under a steep cliff, discovering an underwater cavern that was very different from all the others. After crossing the entrance to the cave, we continued down beautiful passageways, which displayed a small part of the geological history of the Mediterranean coast; a secret place with large stalactites, symbolic of the fact that it was probably above sea level for centuries.
But this was not the last surprise, because when we had to leave this hidden place we were witnesses to a special moment, an activity that after 24 years of diving I had not seen before: the spawning and mating ritual of the colourful bearded fireworms (Hermodice carunculata). A dream day that came true in our lives, as a gift from this, our beloved ocean…
Third day of northwesterly winds
by Silvia García – 16 July 2016
Wind strength: 20 to 25 knots
Wave height: 2 to 4 metres
Today we take the opportunity to do the thousand and one things that you have to do when you are stuck in port due to bad weather and cannot sail.
Second day of north-west winds
by Silvia García – 15 July 2016
Wind strength: 25 to 30 knots
Wave height: 2 to 4 metres
Today we rest. As can be seen in the pictures that illustrate this diary, it has definitely not been a day for sailing. The sea is a seething mass; it’s impressive.
by Enrique Talledo – 14 July 2016
Today is apparently the first of three days with winds of over 20 knots, at least that’s what the wise weather forecasting programmes tell us. For this reason, we woke up earlier than usual to make the most of the day. At half past five we began what would turn out to be a good day. After planning today’s dive, we headed towards the steep cliffs. Today once again we entered the beautiful caves of the island of Gozo, to document these environments, full of invertebrates and sessile organisms that live out their life cycles in complete darkness. In the afternoon, the forecasts prove to be accurate and we are forced to remain moored in port waiting for the wind to allow us to continue enjoying more days at work.
A Thousand-Meter Underwater Journey
by Marta Fernández – 13 July 2016
Today in my diary, I want to talk about a parallel journey I’ve experienced reading Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, a novel by Jules Verne, who back in 1870 described quite accurately the nature and geography of deep-sea areas. Captain Nemo and his crew sail on-board Submarine Nautilus, where, through the aid of fishing lamps, his motivated and naturalistic crew discover and recount in detail and charisma ecosystems and related species.
It was especially moving for me when the Nautilus crosses the Mediterranean through the Suez Canal and submerges between the north of Tunisia and Sicily. These are the same waters we are researching with the Ranger! Discovering underwater mountains similar to the ones in Maltese waters as well as long reefs, white corrals, sponges, sea cucumbers, sea urchins, sea slugs, ringed worms, crustaceans, plant-like animals and molluscs. Our work with the ROV and its thousand-metre long cable, together with the observations the scientist make and my own notes I´m taking along the way, could be considered a parallel journey to the one in the novel – and we could even call it ‘A Thousand-Meter Underwater Journey’!
by Pere Valera – 12 July 2016
Another little entry. Today I’m going to talk about a feeling I had the other day.
I’m a lover of traditional sailing, without electronics (though of course I wouldn’t for a moment renounce all the facilities that we have these days). The other day we were spending the night adrift a few miles from Valletta, to avoid wasting hours going to and from the port. We were in an area where a lot of merchant ships are anchored waiting to be given a job or to refuel. The number of ships that you could see was impressive, and I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I said there were more than a hundred. And I took this image with me when I went to rest while it was still daytime, before watch duty. And when I got up the image I had was that of having land in sight”?. In fact, it was a big city! But looking at the plotter I realised that we were far from Valletta, and that what I saw were the lights of all the merchant ships anchored in the area. How easy it would have been for a sailor coming from afar and sailing without electronic instruments to feel lost, mistaking ships for buildings and unable to recognise the previously planned landfall!
Well, that’s all until the next entry.
A boat is never completely at rest
by Rubén González – 11 July 2016
It is 3 am, and for me a new day has already started. The rest of the staff are sleeping peacefully, rocked gently by the waves on a calm summer night, which has allowed us to float adrift to the east of Malta after finishing work with the ROVs. I say “goodnight” to my colleague who has been on watch and is eager to grab a few minutes of sleep in the quiet of the night, but not before informing me about what has happened during his two hours on duty. Some stormy nights in winter, when I’m at home and I wake up to enjoy the storm looking out of the window, I think of a sailor out in this harsh sea, frozen to the bone and soaked to the skin, without having slept or eaten anything decent for hours, in the cockpit battered by the wind, waves and rain, clutching the wheel and trying to establish the direction from which most water is coming by sticking out his tongue to see if fresh or salt water predominates. And sometimes I am that fellow, and I look at the lights of the houses and imagine myself looking out of the window, from the warmth of my home … It’s a tough addiction, and those who suffer and enjoy it at the same time deserve respect. Now I’m going to start the engines and disturb everyone’s peace and quiet. It’s my turn to perform this unpopular task, to carry out a bathymetry of the area that we will explore with the ROV. In a few hours everyone will wake up and daily life will resume on the Ranger. Meanwhile, I’ll enjoy what remains of my solitude.
Fehc a fo yraid,
by Cris Urien – 10 July 2016
Today it’s Sunday and the beaches are full of bathers cooling off and splashing around in the sea and enjoying a cold beer. But it isn’t all so rosy at the beach; heatstroke, large crowds of people, jellyfish in the waters. But far from the beach, there are member of the human species surviving on a big aluminum box, trying to cool themselves down with big buckets of water and put themselves out of their misery by standing in front of the fans. I should also mention the humidity level here is high here. After that light introduction to the Maltese climate, today our dear ROV very carefully managed to get some sample of sponges. And I can’t end this diary entry without sending a very warm hello to all those who have joined us on-board and those who have wisely abandoned ship so they didn’t have to deal with this heat!
by Carlos Minguell – 09 July 2016
Today the Campaigner who schedules the diary entries got it right for me! One of my diary entries finally falls on a diving day! I think having shared 20m2 for 45 days with me has softened her heart. Today, besides diving, I also went shopping with Cristina the Great Chef and then, in the evening, we carried out some ROV dives. As the night was approaching, the ROV dive ended up being a night-time one, so we had to really look carefully for the tiny animals in sea bed full of seagrass and algae. It’s good to change diving areas, from the usual cave dives, although tonight we came across a thermocline that we had never experienced before; a moving layer of water that separates a layer of cold water at the bottom from the warmer water nearer the surface. It’s especially designed to ruin your chances of getting photos while freezing your neck at any point! If you want to photograph something, you either have to be below it or above it. The bad thing is that below it, the water is freezing cold, and the worst thing about this thermocline was that it started at just 4 meters deep! I asked for 10 more minutes to keep taking photos and I can remember every minute!
Maerl, coralligenous seabeds and boats
by Marta Carreras – 08 July 2016
Today we slept hove-to, very close to a huge anchorage of enormous ships. At night, apart from the light of the stars, we were accompanied by the lights of the boats, which gave the appearance of cities in the middle of nowhere. The weather is good and my first night in these new circumstances has been a success. After a tasty and varied breakfast to recharge our batteries at seven, we set a course for the position of the first ROV dive. Sailors, ROV technicians, first officer, captain and campaigner all work together to make the manoeuvre a success, again and again… seven times. The dives are the same but also different. One involves maerl accompanied by the fan-like green sheets of Flabellia petiolata; another maerl with sea-lilies with their bodies buried in the gravel but their feathery arms sticking out; another with maerl and brittlestars. And, occasionally, a rock juts out, breaking the uniformity of the landscape, sometimes with a coralligenous covering and sometimes covered by a layer of settled silt. Here, a lobster watches us from its lair, while swallowtail seaperch and painted comber mill around, and, on one occasion, we see gorgonians. Also, occasionally, a dent in the seafloor reminds us of the impact of anchors have. Some say that the impacted area is an area equal in size to the island of Malta. We hope that, among other things, this campaign will raise awareness on the need for better regulation of moorings and to allow for the recovery of the rich sea beds found in this “Bahar” (or sea).
A busy day!
by David Orr – 07 July 2016
Although we’ve passed the half-way stage of this expedition, we still have the same excitement and energy as we did on the first day. Today has been a hot day with the sun shining and the sea rather choppy. But nothing can stop the Ranger from carrying marching on with this exciting expedition. Today we had perfect conditions to put the ROV back in the water to explore the seafloor. In fact, it was a really busy day: we’ve done 7 ROV dives, collected samples, filmed areas in HD for the scientists to study, and, to round off the day, we had a fault with the ROV which stopped it from working properly. But no need to worry as all’s well that ends well – it was just a minor fault. Well done, once again, to all the crew on-board, especially the ROV team!
The things you learn!
by Juan Marcos – 06 July 2016
The good thing about there being so many of us on-board here is that everyone is a specialist in something, so you get the chance to learn a great deal of things: like sailing, controlling the ROV, mechanics, marine biology, photography, diving and cooking. On-board the Ranger you never stop learning!
The privileges from working at-sea
by Marta Fernández – 05 July 2016
You get a totally different feeling when you start work on a day like today – opening the Ranger door to see the sea sparkling in front of you and a horizon stretching far and wide, and when you feel the warm early-morning sun on you after a serene and silent night’s sleep under a summer sky filled with stars.
Another treasure from working at-sea is when we’re sailing from one place to another to dive, watching the horizon and breathing in the strong wind hitting you fast as the boat speeds up. You also get nice surprises such as the Risso’s dolphin from the other day coming to visit us again! Well, we’d like to think it was the same one from the other day as we were in the same area. He/she surfed passed the Ranger, stopping to take an inquisitive look at Kike’s drone. But I wish it had come to see us later on in the day when we were all having a dip in the sea after a hard day’s work…being able to do that is just another privilege of working at-sea!
A day full of sightings
by Silvia García – 04 July 2016
Today has been full of sightings, both on the sea surface and deep down. We’re in an area far from the coast, studying rocky sea beds that go from 300 to 700 metres deep. We’re looking for corals and other species that live in these reefs and, if truth be told, we’re having a lot of luck with what we’re finding! Today we have carried out two dives where we discovered one of the most stunning white coral reefs I’ve ever seen in these waters. There were lots of healthy and well developed Madrepora oculata but they are at risk due to fishing lines. Thankfully there aren’t so many fishing lines here as we’re far from the coast.
A white-headed, male Risso’s dolphin did make an appearance, beside two other Risso’s dophins (one female and one younger male, maybe ‘mother and child’). We couldn’t believe how lucky we were to see them coming up so close. We’d like to think that they know what we’re doing here, which is also for their own good!
Onto our 40th campaign day
by Enrique Talledo – 03 July 2016
The weeks are going by and each day we are experiencing something new or learning something new, making this expedition a very rewarding experience indeed. We’ve managed to swim at the same pace as jellyfish, see the way rays “fly” and witness the hatching of cuttlefish eggs. I reassure myself again that these waters, at 1,500m depth, hold a high degree of biodiversity. These waters are home to over 12,000 animal species and to over 1,300 varieties of microalgae, of which 22% are endemic. In this 0.8% of the planet’s ocean surface, important ecosystems come together, like the Posidonia seagrass or deep-sea coral reefs.
We’re now onto our 40th campaign day and we’ve done 56 ROV dives and 17 with diving cylinders and I can tell you that in each one of them, we have seen the remains of some kind of human activity. Bits of loose ends, fishing lines, nets, tyres, plastic – can all be seen when we dive. I don’t want to think that as our oceans fill up with rubbish, humans just turn a blind eye. So, from my little cabin, I want to send out a gentle reminder on that concern, so that we can continue to enjoy the seas, with the same respect and admiration that many of our ancestors had for our oceans.
by Rubén González – 02 July 2016
The hours with the ROV on-deck are long so you have to find something to do while still keeping an eye on important things such as carabiners, ballasts and the controls!
On this year’s expedition, most of us are fitness mad, which means that when we have some spare time, the Ranger looks more like a floating gym than anything else. You kind of have to invent exercises that, in a matter of seconds, can allow you to dash straight back to your work at any moment. This is because we’re dealing with delicate material and the slightest of error could make things go horribly wrong. The banter on-board between the crew is friendly and gives our spirits a good boost. But exercise is always a positive thing for the body, mind and above all, our work, which is mostly physical – we have to be able to lift the ROV from an ocean depth of 1000 metres!
Today, it was a mix of diving in the morning and work on the ROV in the afternoon. Working on the ROV is another hard exercise that always puts us to the test. Nevertheless, we managed to get the work done successfully before heading back to harbour, having reached our objectives and with a few new memories to cherish from the day.
My last day on the Ranger
by Helena Álvarez – 01 July 2016
Today, we continued to sample an anchoring spot, to the east of Malta, an area common with big vessels. Despite the big impacts the area suffers from such vessels, the marine environment is sneaking through bringing with it beautiful bundles of calcareous algae, green algae, and occasionally, structured mud with a high presence of some protected species. Nevertheles, you can see the impact that anchors of cargo ships, gas carriers, and tug boats have had on the area, which have destroyed these fragile habitats. We must film this in order to find a solution. Today is my last day on the Ranger – I´m leaving our floating home until next year- to continue our work on other waters. So, I leave with a heavy heart but knowing that the expedition is in great hands with the excellent crew left on-board to document the Maltese seafloor.
Continue to sample an anchoring spot
by Jesús Molino – 30 June 2016
We are anchored here in Marsaskala. Today we’ll be working on an anchoring spot for cargo ships, just in front of Marsaskala. It’s an area that you can see has been affected by some anchoring and bunkering. However, we still come across interesting spots to film. So much so that yesterday afternoon the ROV filmed something unusual towards one side and then the radar started to draw a big square-like shape. The ROV controllers steered the ROV in that direction with the captain trying to follow the same path so we could take photos of whatever we found there.
Back sailing again!
by Pere Valera – 29 June 2016
I say that we’re back sailing again as we’ve been in habour for 2 days, and not because of bad weather. We got a plastic line, the type fishermen use, stuck in the engine. It broke an engine part so we had to head back to the habour and repair it.
Whether this kind of thing happens is just down to pure odds. But the most worrying thing is that the odds are getting higher and higher. The amount of floating fishing lines and nets left to drift out at sea is unbelievable, not to mention the danger they pose for sailing. I don’t want to go into the amount of fishing lines wrapped up on coral reefs we saw while filming with the ROV.
I hope the work we are undertaking here on-board and everyone who is doing their bit on land, helps in reducing the chances of getting this kind of fishing gear caught up in propellers so that we can sail without fail, and of course, so that the reefs can continue growing without ‘a rope around their neck’.
Until next time, good sailing!
To the water…?
by Perry Allison – 28 June 2016
This morning began with a sense of anticipation, with everyone on board eager to see the broken motor of the Ranger fixed, and get back out to work at sea. Yesterday the captain managed to secure the replacement part we needed (after an adventure to a tiny village on the island of Malta) – but we needed to see whether it would fit, and, once in place, would have the Ranger up and running again.
So today was another “floating office” day, dealing with all of our regular work inside the Rangers, sat at our computers, while the repairs were made outside. The work went quickly, and before long, we heard the sound of the revived motor, and with it, the promise that we can soon resume our surveys in Malta’s waters…. but not today. The winds are too strong, and so we will remain in harbour. Still, we’re unable to resist the call of the sea and its creatures, and many of us take advantage of a chance to cool down with an afternoon swim or snorkel. Tomorrow we will take the ROV back to the depths, but for me today, some time in the shallows with the wrasses is a perfect end to my “office” day.
Diving, no matter what! Hurrah!
by Cristina Urien – 27 June 2016
People are talking and commenting about it; there’s a rumour going around that today we’ll do a dive from the coast! For technical reasons, we couldn’t go out to sea using the boat, so we hired a car and set off to the north area of the island to carry out a dive in a cave that we had seen already.
The sea was quite choppy so access to the cave was quite difficult but nothing compared to a military dive (as I have done), which are quick and agile.
Down there everything was ok, and as usual, I was relying on Kike Talledo’s instructions – I don’t think I’ve ever relied on someone so much in my life! 😉
I’ll leave you now, with a little aperitif in hand, to round off my dive.
Ropes and mishaps
by Albert Ferrer – 26 June 2016
Just when everything was going fine, the ROV in and out of the water, rocky ocean floors, fish, sharks, sponges and coral reefs – getting into the swing of things – when all of a sudden we hear, “watch out there’s a rope in the water”. We thought that nothing too bad had happened to the Ranger as it can deal with all sorts of mishaps, but not this time. Half way into the dive, the rope we hadn’t seen got tangled up in the propellers, leaving us frustrated. We had to go back to port but thanks to the efficiency of the captain, first officer and the logistics coordinator we were relieved to find out the Ranger would soon be back on track.
by Carlos Minguell – 25 June 2016
Against all odds, at least my own, the campaigner on-board has told me it’s my turn to write the diary on a day when we’ve been to work according to plan. Let’s see what I can moan about now. Well, anyway, conditions at sea improved compared to Friday, we carried out 3 dives with the ROV with any problems – we even managed to get a sample of a starfish and we’re now trying to identify the type of starfish it is.
This evening there was nice sunset and, of course, we’re likely to sleep like babies with the Rangers’ motors left running to carry out an over-night bathymetry of tomorrow’s research area. If the boss schedules my next diary entry on another diving dive, then I’ll put out a pin from my voodoo doll.
Greetings from the coast
by Juan Marcos – 24 June 2016
There are 14 of us on-board here in Gozo so it’s important to have a moment to ourselves to unwind. Most of the crew here does that by doing some kind of sport. When we sleep at port, we run and/or swim before the working day starts. And if there’s a spare moment when we’re out sailing or at-sea we do workouts using the big rubber bands (you can do so many different exercises with them!). These are just a couple of ways we stay in shape and relax during our time on the expedition.
A day of unexpected and expected visits on the Ranger
by Marta Fernández – 23 June 2016
Today has been full of visits on-board the Ranger. The kind of visits that come and go, the kind that surprise you and the ones you long for. This morning, we had an unusual visit as a voice on-board shouted out loud, “Kike there’s a strange bird on the bow”! A huge, brown-coloured bird walked right in front of us; it was a purple heron, normally found in freshwater wetlands but had decided to venture offshore.
On our way to take Jorge back to port, who had been visiting us on the Ranger for a few days, we hoped to see some dolphins. And we did! A couple of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) came to say goodbye to Jorge!
The day also ended with another big visit! Allison is now here on-board. She came just in time to have dinner with us before spending her first night on the Ranger!
Days at sea
by Silvia García – 22 June 2016
Normally there are 13 crew members on-board the Ranger, which means that each one of us will write four diary entries during the two-month Malta expedition. That is enough to be able to tell you things about the expedition from many different perspectives. In my last diary entry, I gave you a summary on how things had been going. I’m not going to talk about the miles we’ve traveled but rather the dives we’ve carried out and how productive the campaign is turning out to be. I want to take advantage of the diary again to let you know that the work is going well, despite the fact that June was much windier than last year, forcing us to stay at port more days that we had expected and disrupting some of our dives. We’ve carried out dives in all of our intended research areas, sometimes doing multiple dives, which have given us dozens of samples. And there are still 39 days left to keep building on our knowledge of this sea!
Between the underwater caves
by Enrique Talledo – 21 June 2016
I’m starting my diary entry sitting on the bow of the Ranger, looking towards the horizon, ten miles from the coast of Gozo, with the ROV in 500-metre-deep water. It’s a little break from spending hours labeling all the hundreds of videos we’ve made over the last few days. I still have such vivid memories of the dive we did yesterday – one of the most beautiful dives out of the many I’ve done in this sea. I feel like an explorer who’s out looking for biological treasures hidden between grottos and caves in the Mediterranean. I have to say that these spots give me a feeling of fear but I overcome this as soon as I see the true beauty and splendor that is hiding behind this game of lights and shadows. I am surprised and in utter disbelief when I see a fish like the Bluespotted Cornetfish from the Red Sea (Fistularia commersonii) and have the chance to document a cave inhabitant like the Dark Brotula inhabitant like the Oligopus ater fish in its dark underwater cave. As I write, I don’t want to miss the opportunity here to thank the rest of the crew. Their help and good work is making this expedition to be the most fun and fascinating I’ve been on so far.
by Helena Álvarez – 20 June 2016
All research methods involve some degree of impact on the environment and all researchers are aware of that. Although it is practically impossible to cause no harm at all, for example, when lifting sediments, the sampling we do with the ROV is the least intrusive method there is to study the deep sea. Even so, an image is sometimes not enough to distinguish one species from another as some vary ever so slightly, like for example, in details of structure or polyps. In such cases, taking a specimen sample to study later on in more detail either on-board or in a lab is therefore necessary. With the ROV’s mechanical arm and with some considerable skill from the controller, we take a small but big enough piece to correctly identify the species, with minimum harm to the living creature. After hopefully not getting lost along the way up to the sea surface, we get the specimen on-board and then document it and take photos of it fresh out of the sea. Then we take an even smaller piece from the sample and store it in a 100% alcohol preservative, which allows us to carry out genetic studies if we need to. The rest is conserved in 70% alcohol (diluted with distilled water). Thanks to these kinds of samples, we can help protect a certain species, area or even come across a new discovery for science.
A day on-deck unfolds like the sea itself
by Kike Río – 19 June 2016
A day on-deck unfolds like the sea itself. This morning the groundswell from the last few days was still washing around, with big, slow and unruly waves that are not entirely on our side for using the ROV properly. As the day went by, the sea calmed, just like our energy levels. In the last moments of the dive, with sunset on the horizon, the sea started to flatten out, looking serene, grey and soft. The day is almost coming to an end and the bad weather is now behind us.
by Pere Valera – 18 June 2016
So, today it’s my turn to write the on-board diary.
Just a couple of words on superstitions. In the olden days, and, not so long ago in fact, due to a lack of information and knowledge, almost everyone who worked with or related to nature used to be superstitious to be able to answer to and deal with Mother Nature.
A few years ago, I sailed with an old seaman who couldn’t bear anyone whistling on-board his boat. According to him, and old sailor friend of his, to whistle was to ask for trouble from the sea. I inherited his superstition so every time I hear someone whistling I can´t help but tell them about his theory. There’s been a lot of whistling on-board and, believe me, I am not superstitious.
On that note, and as I sign off, I’d just like to say that in this last week we’ve had to stay at port for three or four days due to strong winds…
A fine Ranger
by Rubén González – 17 June 2016
“People who do not know that a sailboat is a living creature will never understand anything about boats and the sea”.
A fine phrase from a fine seaman like Moitessier. It sums up perfectly those who live and care for boats, which is not something everyone will understand. Although the Ranger only takes to water for campaign work, I am lucky enough to be able to share with it both the good and bad times during the months when it is docked, which is also the best chance to get yourself familiarized – from top to bottom – with a boat.
The Ranger is a nice boat that knows how to take care of its crew, especially when things get rough out at-sea. We don’t treat it as well as we should sometimes, but it knows that we do our best to keep it in shape and looking good. After being left dry for a few months, it comes back to life when it gets back into the water and it is then when you realise that all the work done to it in the cold winter months is really worth it: everything works! Now what we really like doing starts: living out at sea! The Ranger is a friend, a colleague, a home, a tool for our work, and ultimately, a fine boat.
by Jorge Blanco – 16 June 2016
My name’s Jorge Blanco and I’m a GIS (Geographic Information Systems) Analyst at Oceana. Bad weather has forced us to stay at port again so we make the most of that time to carry out “office work”. For me, that means working on the results from the MultiBeam coordination meeting that took place yesterday in Valletta. But first of all, what exactly is a MultiBeam? Well, it’s the process through which we obtain a high-definition “image” of the ocean floor. In other words, we’re going find out exactly the bathymetry and the substrate of the areas we’ve studied, which will help us to find the best locations to carry out our under-water dives. Later on, we spent the late-afternoon on a beach where, unfortunately, in just half an hour, 5 of us managed to fill three huge sacks full of rubbish. This just shows you how much more we need respect our seas!
Diary of a chef-cum -diver
by Cris Uralde – 15 June 2016
Today, after two days of bad weather, we took on the wind and decided to set off towards the north of the Island of Gozo to do some snorkeling dives in search of sand banks. I had forgot to tell you that as well as do the cooking on-board I also accompany the videographer, Enrique Talledo. He’s outstanding what he does and an even better person and I have the privilege of accompanying him to where he wants to go – to where his eyes stop scanning and the camera starts filming.
Thanks for believing in me, Kike! We did two dives where we saw rays, flying gurnards, Neptune grass bursting with life on rocks… I could go on and on but like on any diving day we end the day with a huge smile on our face. Then I help out Juanillo (diving coordinator and super nice guy) before I start getting lunch ready in the kitchen. At 1.30pm lunch is ready! After that, it was time to rest a little and then back into the water to where I feel at home!
See you soon!
by David Orr – 14 June 2016
Here I am joining the Oceana and LIFE BaĦAR Malta expedition, as part of the ROV team!
After a few days with the ROV on-deck to carry out some repairs on the umbilical cable – one of the most important parts of this little robot – it was time to test it in the water. But first we did the usual pre-dive checks that we do before any dive to see that it works properly and then we were ready to get it back into the water!
Our little robot followed our commands to use its propellers, hydraulic-powered robotic arm and then “lights, camera, action”!
The ROV is finally back in the water and ready for its next dive!
by Carlos Minguell – 13 June 2016
There’s not much to say when the wind keeps you at port all day. Before midday I managed to finish the work I had pending; sorting and classifying photos and making back-up copies. I also had a swim in the sea after the wind had swept away an “army” of jellyfish offshore. The wind had to be good for something! To be honest, thanks to the strong winds, I was able to watch Spain play in Euro 2016. If the weather goes our way and depending on when my next entry is scheduled for, I hope my next diary entry will be a lot more interesting!
Preparing to dive
by Juan Marcos – 12 June 2016
As head of diving, my task is to have all the diving equipment ready, set and above all, safe for a productive dive.
On deck the work is always a bit more stressful and requires a lot of concentration and organization pre- and post-dive. As we make our way to the diving area, with the help of Cristina Urien (my right hand), we set about getting ready for the pre-dive. We finished filling up the bottles and prepared the equipment so everybody had everything they needed in the shortest amount of time possible. We then checked that the scooters and underwater torches had adequate battery life and that the buoys, boards, sampling tubes and the rest were all there.
When the divers came back up we started with the post-dive work: rinsing down the equipment with fresh water, battery and bottle charging, data gathering from the dive (position and dimensions of the caves found), logbook filling etc.
We do all of this in as little time as possible which is why it can get stressful, but it’s true that once in the water submerged in silence with nothing but your breathing to be heard, all that pre- and post-work gets left behind. You concentrate on getting your breathing right, on your fellow divers and above all, on admiring the beautiful scenery around you.
All this while you keep on thinking that this job that you’re doing is to ultimately protect the oceans and the life it holds within, and that, is priceless!
A Saturday spent on tiny Mediterranean islands
by Marta Fernández – 11 June 2016
Today we headed off for the spectacular sea cliffs to the north of the island. We cast off from the port quite late… and just in time to see the typical little Mediterranean boats, yachts and motor boats, whose captains are not the most conscientious of skippers. And as we passed the small island of Comino, we glimpsed the hordes of boats in the small bays including some yachts side-by-side in a small space in the bay.
I began to wonder, “What kind of pleasure can you get from such a crowded place”? I think that touristy way of enjoying the sea takes away all of the peaceful and paradisiacal surrounding of the sea and as a result, it is easy to be thoughtless about your natural surroundings when your boat stops and where the Mediterranean sea is the ultimate victim in all this: plastic, discharges, and where underwater noise pollution is disturbing and even damaging to its inhabitants, especially cetaceans.
However, on the north of the island we were alone, “as usual”, in the northern areas of the Mediterranean islands. The diving team plunged into the water to investigate the environment of the sub-marine caves while we “tended to the Ranger” with our auxiliary boat, watching the bubbles rise from our team members and admiring the spectacular sea walls in all their natural wonder – this really is enjoying our natural surroundings to its full!
On a personal and interesting note, as we stood guard over the divers, marine samples floated up to the sea surface. This time I found a spider crab which, as it turns out, is not that common in these Mediterranean waters. Its presence in these waters was discovered a few years ago and could be due to climate change, which is another example of how the Med. Sea is damaged by man’s presence.
So far, so good
by Silvia García – 10 June 2016
Well, as today is a day in which we can’t go out to sea (for technical reasons, inevitable in this type of campaign), I’ll give you all a summary on where the campaign is at now.
We’re now a quarter way (exactly 23.8%) through our campaign here. And we can’t believe it. Some of the crew here have said it feels as if we’ve been on-board for a year now: 14 people living together, in what would be the equivalent of a small apartment, is never going to be easy. But to me it seems that we’ve only just got going. Of this two-year LIFE BAHAR oceanographic campaign, this is its second year and therefore it is vital that we complete each and every study, on the coastal and deep–sea area to gather as much data as we possibly can on the precious reefs, sea caves and sandbanks in these Maltese waters.
Until now we’ve done 25 dives with the ROV and 6 scuba dives and we’ve only been moored at port for 2 days out of 14 days, which hopefully means it’s going to be a promising and productive campaign.
Marine ecosystems 22 miles west off the Island of Gozo
by Enrique Talledo – 09 June 2016
At 6.45am the alarm goes off and a new day of researching the depths of the ocean floors where no sun light gets to. It’s a universe full of creatures that adapt to life at such depths.
At around 300ms down, the ROV manages to captures fantastic images of a bed of sub-fossil brachiopods. Little did we expect that, later on, we’d have some bad luck with the ROV cable when it got damaged after getting stuck in one of the Ranger’s propellers.
Despite everyone’s efforts on-board to get the most out of each day, the sea is can be ruthless, making it hard to do our work on-board. A little disappointed, we headed back to port to find a solution to the problem and to keep fighting to save our precious Mediterranean sea.
We’ve got around 50 days left of the expedition and without a shadow of a doubt these waters will delight us with expected appearances – like the one today from a shark with six gills, also known as Bluntnose sixgill shark.
However, as with all oceans on our planet and as we’re observing day after day, traces of human activity is affecting both the health of our oceans and our species.
World Oceans Day
by Helena Álvarez – 08 June 2016
I’ve just recently joined the expedition in Malta and today we’ve set sail towards one of the furthest research areas we’ll be going to, where we’ll be for the next three days.
The weather, together with good sea conditions means it’s a perfect day to be sailing for 4 hours to reach our first sampling area.
The day couldn’t have started off any better: turtle watching (loggerhead sea turtles, Caretta caretta) and two sunfish (Mola mola) and then on to do the ROV dives where we’ve been able to document white sea floors as well as rugged underwater walls covered in gorgonians, deep reefs and other habitats that I’ve been waiting for over a year get the chance to investigate.
Today is indeed World Oceans Day, and it’s well worth mentioning the need to carry out projects like ours (Life BaĦAR ) to understand the deep sea floors and to adequately protect and manage them.
Reuniting with “the 8”
by Quique Río – 07 June 2016
I had been missing something for over two years. When I counted I always missed out counting the number 8 as it had left me feeling empty inside.
I have to say that I quite like the way eight (ocho) sounds in Spanish and other words that rhyme with it. But when my friends from Oceana called me one day to ask if I wanted to go on the Ranger again and when I got back on to the deck and saw this yellow “eight” glowing at me, I thought, “there it is, that huge 8-shaped umbilical cord was what I was missing all along”.
A day of diving on the Ranger
by Pere Valera – 06 June 2016
From a boss’s point of view – and that is indeed my role on-board – it’s been a quiet day. At least that is what I can say for the amount of attention I needed to pay to the controls today. We’ve also wind sailed today (and we went a lot faster than we would with the motor on), which is something we haven’t managed to do since crossing from Barcelona to Ragusa, Sicily.
I suppose by now you are all familiar with the ROV, so I’ll leave that aside for now. But what I can tell you is that in order to film at such depths, what we really need is for the boat to sail at a set speed (which is almost never faster than 0.5 knots) and on a set route.
This is mainly my role here. And to do that you have to keep monitoring three things all the time: the route the boat is taking and the speed, the wind and the problems that brings with it and sea current and drifting. So, being at the control can be interesting and fun yet a bit strange too, but it can be also stressful and tiring.
Another thing that is a little less curious to share with you is, as a seaman, I’m used to looking up at the stars and sky and trying to interpret them and name the clouds, stars, birds, marine mammals or fish or whatever happens to appear before our eyes. But on this campaign I’m starting to learn what lies at the bottom of the sea. And of course I’m not talking about what’s in the shallow waters but at 100 meters-deep! It’s truly incredible what life there is there and just how beautiful it is.
So, if at times my work gets a bit monotonous and stressful, I remember the goal behind all this is to protect that life, so then it’s all worth it.
So, that’s it until the next diary entry!
The “easy” life of a sailor
by Rubén González – 05 June 2016
Hi everyone! I’m Rubén, a crew member onboard the Ranger. Our day-to-work on deck starts early. A good washing-down with buckets of water followed by a few checks and then on to untie the mooring lines. The time spent sailing to our work areas we use to rest, chat or simply observe the ocean and the clouds. We’re being lucky with the weather – although I expected less rain that what we’ve had: it’s rained a few times this week at-sea. On deck, the sun can make working there uncomfortable but when it clouds over and the cool wind gets stronger, well, we miss the sun and we wouldn’t settle for anything else! Today, the sea is on our side, allowing us to carry out daily dives with the ROV and achieve our targets. Sleeping at port always helps to give us more strength for the next day’s work – and, it’s a lot better than doing the nightshift although sometimes it’s nice to spend the night under the stars. Tomorrow’s another day; I’m off now to get some rest.
A day of many contrasts
by Ricardo Aguilar – 04 June 2016
Today we have gone from being in a rocky area with the most densely-covered seafloor we have ever seen in all over dives to going on to a dive in a sandy seabed with hardly any signs of life. Yet we always find something to surprise us – a meat-eating sponge here, a new echinoderm there and a fish that we didn´t expect at all to see in these waters.
Many sea beds habitats look like a mosaic – one minute there’s a forest-like area then there’s a desert-like area – or we’ve even seen these contrasts in one single area. It’s quite possible that these habitats wouldn´t be able to exist without each other. That’s why it’s so important to see the bottoms of the ocean and to know the role they play in order to manage them well.
A happy day from the “great little” Mediterranean Sea
by Cris Uribe Uribe – 03 June 2016
I’m starting my small contribution to the diaries on-board the Ranger with a lot of energy. It’s a pleasure to introduce myself – I’m Cris – the chef on this expedition and it’s my second year with Oceana on the Bahar Life project in Malta. So, let me tell you a little about the day – my point of view -, from my little kitchen on the port side of the stern on the catamaran.
Today is the second day of work at-sea. We spent last night sailing from one point to another with the ROV to give as much time as possible to explore without having to waste any time going back to the port.
With a calm sea and zero winds, we were able to see dolphins and lots of turtles on the surface – with different weather we wouldn’t see these. We saw 20 in a short space of time – shining into our eyes and as being as friendly as ever.
The work on board drags on a bit longer than we thought but dinner is now ready. Every time Ricardo Aguilar’s in the kitchen (one of these days I´ll get him to put an apron on so he can cook king crab or fish cheeks), I discover a little bit more about what goes on at the bottom of the ocean.
We all sit down at the table and start chatting, laughing and listening to each other – each one of us with our own interesting, different and necessary role to play on board.
After that, we do what we always do – get some rest and go to bed. I personally love these nights where the calm and silence take over. The sky is laced with stars like a fine blurred line – it’s an incredible spectacle to watch over – and this very sky becomes smaller and thinner until I realize that with the gentle rocking of the sea, my eyes are starting to close….zzz
Footsteps above deck
by Albert Ferrer – 02 June 2016
The footsteps above deck and the sound of dolphins chirping make waking up that bit easier. But today I can stay in bed a bit longer as we’re on our way south to spend 3 days out at-sea. Five minutes later and there’s another bout of noises above my head – this time it doesn’t sound like a dolphin but its “voice” makes me think I guessed right – a turtle!
After a long time sailing, we got back to work: the ROV, cameras and all-hands-on-deck! Rocks, soft corals (gorgonians) and other living creatures have made us really enjoy the dives today!
A day of diving!
by Carlos Minguell – 01 June 2016
Being an underwater photographer is fun – but sometimes brings a bit of misfortune – like on diving day today when I wasn’t able to dive myself. But our campaigner has insisted I do this so here I am with a cold but ready to give it a go.
We’ve had a grey and rainy day today with enough morning wind to make us change our initial plans for the ROV into a dive to hunt for caves along an amazing cliff off the south of the island.
Kike and Jesús got some amazing photos and some samples of sponges inside a huge sea cave and I managed to get some photos too, but mainly of Kike and Jesus in the sea. In the afternoon the wind died down and the ROV, after a few days in muddy waters, covered a rugged rock bottom that look nothing like this morning’s dive! Just a coincidence!
More than 70 days of sailing
by Jesús Molino – 31 May 2016
There are so many things to sort out before you start a campaign. Sort out the boat, check the diving equipment, science work, uniforms, security and a long etc.
After 3 years of specific work on the Ranger catamaran, we finally get together in Sicily. There are some familiar faces from the last 6 years and a few new faces this year, but we’re all excited to be taking part in this kind of research expedition. Some of those here have just recently come back from a research expedition in the Baltic Sea. Ahead of us we have more than 70 days of sailing and ROV work and dives to research the bottom of these Maltese waters.
My work consists in preparing the campaign, organizing the crew and kicking off the expedition. Once the campaign is underway, I check that the work on deck can be done properly and safely. At the moment everything is turning out perfectly and the work is being carried out with major setbacks – and any minor setbacks have been sorted out. Let’s touch wood for the next few months and hope that everything carries on like this!
Vessel Restricted in Her Ability to Manoeuvre
by Marta Fernández – 30 May 2016
The vessel is restricted in her ability to maneuver.
That’s what Pere, the Captain, tells us as we work from one maneuver to another while at the same time gracefully lecturing us on international maritime norms.
My name is Marta and I’m a sailor on board the Ranger. We had a wonderful sail here, heading southeast from the Iberian Peninsula to Malta. My work has been focused on taking care of the boat and checking on the ROV as it goes in and out of the water.
I am impatiently waiting to see what creatures of the deep sea want to come out from their habitats and say hello, seeing the state of the Mediterranean sea-bed, chatting while continuing to see how fishing is depleting habitats – it makes it all worth it.
This is my second Life Project, this time on the deck and as ever, I’m happy to be contributing to conservation work in the Mediterranean. I’m looking forward to what the future will hold for these different habitats, which after all, is the main objective of this campaign in these waters off the Maltese coast.
An encounter with alien species
by Ilaria Vielmini – 29 May 2016
Winds from the south-east and north-west met and mixed today near Malta. This is a joy for the sailing boat but a problem for the Ranger as the wind is too strong and the waves are too high to manoeuvre the ROV. We opted to work along the coast so we could continue with the mapping of sandbanks, one of the key habitats we are working on along the Maltese bays before these bays get too crowded for the summer season.
Today we mapped the Blue Lagoon in Comino. It is a pretty small bay which is very shallow and, despite the mooring site around the bay, the area is reasonably well conserved, as proved by the presence of ecosystems which are important for some coastal fish like Posidonia and Cymodocea meadows.
However, we have also encountered the presence of two alien species that were introduced in the Mediterranean some decades ago now, an alien species of Caulerpa and the alien plant Halophila stipulacea. This raised our concerns and once again such an encounter has reminded me of the importance of the work we are carrying out to preserve the marine ecosystem in the Mediterranean and in the oceans.
Escaping the wind
by Silvia García – 28 May 2016
It’s been a choppy day today. We saw the bad weather coming in but we still took the risk of going out ten nautical miles early on this morning, at 6am, to fully make the most of the few hours available before the forecasted winds arrived. After an hour of transect along the bed with the robot, we were forced to bring it on board and find shelter, mid-morning, with the whole day ahead of us.
Therefore, we headed into a bay to the west of the island of Malta in order to document the sandbanks, another of the target objectives in this project with a contentious definition with regard to Mediterranean waters.
A rock sponge reef
by Silvia García – 27 May 2016
The first ROV immersions of this 2016 campaign have been carried out in a fossil reef with stone sponges.
This reef, discovered last year, promises to be a great deal bigger than what we have previously seen. It’s a habitat replete with nooks and crannies, where dozens of species of crustaceans, molluscs, coral, fish and numerous other sea inhabitants shelter and feed, and it’s also one of the biggest natural assets discovered in Maltese waters, as well as being one of a kind in the Mediterranean.
Therefore, its description is one of this campaign’s main goals. Today luck wasn’t on our side given that the visited areas were muddy beds without a trace of these sponges. However, we’re sure that the upcoming immersions will bring us pleasant surprises.
Off to a Good Start
by Enrique Talledo – 26 May 2016
As we set sail out on our new expedition today, those fond, vivid memories from last year’s expedition came floating back to us all on board. The weather was on our side too – just the right combination of a light breeze, pleasant temperature and a 10-metre visibility which is characteristic of the waters we’re currently in.
Our objective for today is to document a sand-bed area close to the sea shore and Cymodocea nodosa seagrass meadows. Different kinds of molluscs like the Pinna nobilis, star fish such as Astropecten, hermit crabs and flatfish have been the major sightings so far in this underwater area. Then we were all back on board feeling happy with the audiovisual information we had captured there.
Later on today we’ll be downloading the files from today’s dive to identify species while other crew members will be getting preparations together for the rest of the days we’ll be out at sea – there’s no going back to land for a while now.
The ROV (Remote Operated Vehicle) will descend beyond shelf to capture images at a deeper depth. The interesting thing is that some of these areas have hardly been studied and the data we’ll gather will be of great interest to be able to devise management and protection plans for a Mediterranean at risk.