Sheer Abundance

R/V Henry B. Bigelow

Latitude 53.16 N, Longitude 34.77 W

The Loosejaw Photostomias guernel. Photos by David Shale.

Greetings from the Charlie-Gibbs Fracture Zone! We’ve had several successful trawls and are beginning to collect some priceless samples. Perhaps the most interesting feature of the expedition thus far is the sheer abundance of critters collected along the abyssal plain adjacent to the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. At around 750-1,500 meters (2,200-4,500 ft.) we ran into a massive swarm of amphipods that nearly clogged our cod ends. It was these amphipods, combined with several large jellyfish (Periphylla periphylla), that acted as a cushion for some of the more fragile specimens we collected, including a loosejaw fish (Photostomias guernei) and purple copepods.

Midwater copepods.

We’ve run two trawls along the easternmost stations of the Charlie-Gibbs Fracture Zone and the fish we pull up continue to amaze me. I’ve been on several deep-sea expeditions during my years as a graduate student and each time the net comes up I feel like it’s Christmas morning. I get the distinct impression that some of the crew and probably some of the scientists think I’m crazy as I shout in excitement at 5:30 in the morning. Yet when we find anglerfish (Lophodolos acanthognathus) with their lures brightly lit up and deep-sea smelts (the focus of my research) as large as trout I find it hard to hold in my excitement.

The anglerfish Lophodolos acanthognathus.

With two shifts of scientists working around the clock to analyze the catch, we’re bound to pull up some more interesting organisms….knock on wood. On a final note, we currently have the nets fishing in the water and I sit here in absolute awe as to how John Galbraith and the crew are able to let out nearly four miles of line and still be able to control the multi-sampler with such precision that we are able to fish within 150 meters of a series of vast underwater mountains. Happy fishing!