Message in a bottle…

Today is already day 10 of this expedition, and (unfortunately) also the final full day for scientific work on board of RV Belgica. After having sheltered a few days in Bantry Bay, trying to keep ourselves busy (or catch up on overdue work), we set off this morning to the study area again with two main objectives: (1) recover the mooring we deployed 9 days ago and (2) make use of all available time to acquire some extra seismic profiles ;-). The transit started out misty and bumpy, but once on the study area, we were welcomed by sunny weather and a calmer sea. The recovery of this mooring would be a first for the Belgica. The mooring was located at 600 m water depth, and waiting for a signal from us to activate the acoustic release. The ship approached 100 m from the drop position, and some 10 minutes after release, the two big yellow floats appeared nicely at 80 m of our starboard side. Thanks to the excellent hook-throwing technique of our “boots”, Luc, the mooring was hooked in and on deck several minutes later, ready to check in the recorder bottle what messages from the deep were recorded. A succes for the scientific team and another achievement for RV Belgica! The ROV data already showed a wide variety of bedforms, indicating locally variable bottom currents. We hope that with this data we can also measure the strength of the currents, as well as there temporal variability of the past few days. After the obligatory marine mammal monitoring, we indeed also started the last night of seismic profiling.

What lies ahead? We will start our transit to Zeebrugge at 06h00 tomorrow morning, which will take about 3 days. We will not be idle during that time; we’ll be busy wrapping up all equipment, writing the cruise report, checking the current data… and enjoying Mike’s tasty food!

I am happy? As chief scientist (I am David Van Rooij, by the way… associate professor in Marine Geology and Geophysics at Ghent University) you have to be realistic and be happy with the time given by the Sea. Organizing a survey for 10 days on the Atlantic Ocean, means planning for maximum results with minimal days… You never know the weather that will be given. Admittedly, this year we were not so lucky with the weather. BUT, the data we did gather is of extremely high quality and did show us some new insights in the study area, which is certainly good news for our FWO DynaMOD project. It is the beautiful synergy of the different expertises of the scientific team (oceanography, geology, geophysics, engineering, biology) and the extremely capable RV Belgica crew that made this mission – again – a success (without major breakdowns or injuries!!). I only wonder what luxury of data we would have gathered with a full 10 days of perfect seas ;-). In any case… our story isn’t over here. Keep following us on the transit and we will be back again next year… hopefully with some new fancy methods to unveil another layer of the deep-sea mysteries!

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Unusual crowd on the bridge, even not for marine mammals, but anxiously looking at the sea to be the first one to spot the mooring!

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The Eureka moment: not by the (many) spotters, but from a casual visitor on the bridge… thx Kenneth!

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Mooring hooked in, ready to haul it in and download the message from the bottle!

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