Posted by: Saul Rosser
By Sebastian Engel
Video by Sebastian Engel, edited by Danielle Dixson
Today marks the 8th day of our mission and all is going according to plan. We’ve finished collecting data and are now taking down our experiment. This is by far the most labor intensive part of our mission because it involves breaking down our experimental cages and cleaning up the reef. Each cage, measuring 2m x 2m x 1.5m, consists of a stainless steel frame that is covered with plastic coated chicken wire. The cage frame is anchored into the substrate with 12 inch spikes and the chicken wire flanges are secured with hundreds of fencing nails. To remove these cages we use large metal shears and crow bars. We found it easiest to do this work without our fins because we get better leverage standing up and are able to walk the heavy cages to central sand patches were we consolidate all material.
The habitat technicians and the rest of the Aquarius Reef Base team play a critical role in keeping us safe and helping us with our clean-up effort. After each cage is removed, surface support divers meet us at the bottom and take all caging material up to the surface, load it on their boat, and transport it back to shore. Under water, the Aquarius habitat technicians coordinate all our diving activities with the surface support team. To communicate with Aquarius we dive into a waystation that is positioned at our research site and equipped with a microphone, a speaker, and air-fill equipment.
While we discuss our diving activities and fill our SCUBA tanks, we frequently drink bottled water to stay hydrated.
The Aquarius habitat is a great diving platform because it allows us to conduct working dives up to 8 hours every day without ever having to go to the surface. After each dive we head back into Aquarius to eat, discuss work, and even take a nap, before going back out for our next dive. Spending so much time under-water is not only a lot of fun but also exposes us to sea life not frequently seen while SCUBA diving from the surface. Recently we encountered a Hawksbill Turtle (Eretmochelys imbriocota) feeding on a sponge (Geodia neptuni). Surprisingly, this turtle continued feeding and was not bothered by our presence. It appears that spending eight hours every day working at our site makes us part of this amazing underwater world!
See Sebastian and Danielle’s video here: