The Gulf Stream runs over Physalia seamount, bringing warm currents and moist air up from southern waters and making the deck of the Scarlett Isabella feel like a Miami Beach poolside the last two days. Today the North Atlantic asserted itself with high winds and six-foot waves – like being at a Miami poolside and taking a jet through turbulence at the same time.
Whatever the effect on our stomachs, the change in weather didn’t deter a pod of spotted dolphins from paying us another visit this morning. The twenty or so dolphins—with white bottoms and grey spots fading into solid grey on top—have shown up several times a day since we arrived at the seamount. Swimming in from the northeast to play around the ship’s bow, the dolphins have been a delight throughout the trip.
And in other good news: the AUVs’ new color cameras, which have been balky from the start, finally provided their first photos of Physalia seamount. This is an operational triumph, one that is critical to the expedition’s success. And the photos showed black corals growing on the seamount, the first sighting of deep sea corals here. Also spotted were sea stars, brittle stars, sea spiders, and various fish species, including grenadiers and cusk eels.
This is all from one very short run by one AUV, just 155 photos, as the Woods Hole engineers are still experimenting with how to best run the AUV in the rough volcanic terrain. The plan is now to put both AUVs in the water to run separate tracks around the seamount’s summit. I look forward to reporting what these investigations turn up.