Log: NUIG Coralfish ROV Survey

18th May 2009 Survey Ended: Coralfish ROV Survey

Area: Shelf Edge, Porcupine Seabight & Biscay.

Agency: NUI Galway / Marine Institute

Ship: Celtic Explorer

Observer: Dave Wall

______________________________________

RTE News: Major new area of deepwater coral reefs found off the west coast.

18th May 2009

This morning found us off Galley Head, Cork. Despite a survey from Galley Head to the Old Head of Kinsale in moderate (force 4) sea conditions, nothing was seen. The RV Celtic Explorer docked in Cobh at midday, marking the end of the survey.

Download the full survey report.

17th May 2009

The high winds continued today. No sightings.

16th May 2009

More gales today with winds gusting up to 40knots. Though the day was best spent in the office... Stephen, the ships Bosun, reported a pod of 12 large dolphins (probably pilot whales) that approached the ship just after dinner.

15th May 2009

The gale passed during the night, leaving sea state 3-5 today. The only sighting of the day was a grey seal which paid a visit to the back of the ship. It's a fair way out for a seal... 55miles west of Valentia Island. Mind you tagged seals have been recorded as far west as the Rockall Bank (c250 miles west) and grey seals in particular are no strangers to the open ocean.

14th May 2009


... er... need I explain?

13th May 2009

Fog in the morning delayed the start of survey. In the afternoon the wind quickly picked up to force 5 and later 6. No sightings today. Only amusement for the day came in evicting a swallow that had flown into the Galley.

12th May 2009

More weather (force 5-6) and no sightings while we remained fairly stationary during another ROV survey. Despite the boredom, even survey effort in these conditions tells us something. In this case at least we know there are no large baleen whales in the area, as their blows would easily be seen - even in force 6.

The ROV produced some nice images of coral reefs with some areas of intact live reef. However it is depressing to see relatively few live patches among masses of debris of dead coral rubble. The live patches remaining give a glimpse of what these reefs once looked like. One can only imagine what spectacular habitat existed in these deep water reef areas before it was damaged, largely by commercial fishing.

With no blubber to report on the surface, the bird life was our only amusement. We are surrounded by gannets and fulmars... all hopeful that we will suddenly turn into a fishing trawler and produce a net full food! The gannets are busy fighting among themselves... with beaks like theirs, you wouldn't want to be at the bottom of the pecking order.

Gannets fighting, Porcupine Bank 12/05/2009 © Dave Wall GMIT/IWDG

11th May 2009

Another day of marginal weather (force 5-6) brought only one brief sighting of some large dolphins (probably bottlenose) splashing among the choppy seas about 800m from the ship.

10th May 2009

Rain and high winds greeted our return to Irish waters... so what's new there? A sea state 6 accompanied by a heavy swell and rain made for poor survey conditions. Despite an attempt at survey, no sightings were recorded as we crossed the Porcupine Seabight.

9th May 2009

Its one thing to say that there's no cetaceans in a particular area, at a particular time... it's another to prove it statistically. And so we traversed our way back across the western part of the Celtic Shel