R/V Henry B. Bigelow
Latitude 51.39 N, Longitude 28.86 W
The Norwegian krill trawl continues to collect specimens of amazing quality. Throughout the first 15 trawls we’ve caught a lot of biomass, but the diversity of fish and other organisms has been not quite as high as I would’ve expected. However, as we passed through the sub-polar front and into warmer waters, things have picked up quickly. We are starting to see species that we haven’t seen before on this cruise and one can tell the excitement among the crew and scientists as each trawl comes on deck. A couple of days ago we were fortunate enough to collect a live cockatoo squid (Teuthowenia megalops) and even though my research focuses on deep-sea fish I could not help but stop what I was doing to catch a glimpse of this remarkable and intelligent cephalopod (perhaps because it had the fish that I study clenched in its tentacles!).
One of the more interesting trawls was a short one where we fished down to 750 meters (2,250 ft). We were planning on getting close to a peak on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge during the night to see what vertical migrators we might catch. However, the echo sounder showed that we were too close for comfort to the ridge and we had to wind up the net very rapidly in order not to lose our gear. We breathed a large sigh of relief as the multi-sampler was brought on board intact. By the time the fish were brought into the sorting room it was around 4 am, yet there was not a tired eye on the boat, as specimens such as a lancet fish (Alepisaurus brevirostris) and a perfectly preserved hatchet fish (Argyropelicus gigas) were among the critters on the menu. Both species are new to the cruise species list and we were all getting the impression that each trawl from this point forward would not disappoint.
Our first tow this morning showed that our intuitions were right. In perhaps the best trawl to date we captured a variety of deep-sea squids, a large octopod, many large sawtooth eels (Serrivomer beanii) and some rare angler fishes (Melanocetus murrayi). With all these poorly studied species, perhaps the strangest catch to date came after we were working up that same trawl for several hours. Nearly done analyzing the catch, one of the crew members yelled my name and told me to get outside. As I was making my way onto the deck, I thought I did something wrong and was in big trouble. However, as I approached the deck I could see John Galbraith (all 6’5” of him) inside one of the nets. Thinking this was odd, I could see the rest of the crew struggling to get something out of the net—and it was large. As it turns out, it was a 5-foot dealfish (Trachipterus arcticus) and the sight of it is something that I will forever remember. Truly a remarkable and seldom-seen fish, this specimen will find a new home at VIMS on our return.