After anchoring at Tanaga Island on Thursday night, we wasted no time and got in the water first thing on Friday morning. Thankfully for the San Diego crew, we were so caught up in the hustle we had no time to think about how cold the water was going to be. We were busy prepping our sensors and making sure we had everything together for our first dive (we still forgot something and as we were about to get in the water we had to pull anchor and get back into the boat).
The ship carries four zodiacs that are divided up among dive teams and a member of the crew comes out with the divers to tend the boat while everyone is underwater. Since we are so remote, safety is key. Everything we do while away from the ship is radioed back to the captain, there is no room for error up here.
Back on the hook at our first dive site we anxiously dawned our gear and hopped into the water! Thanks to cold water and nearly 100% cloud cover the diving conditions are fantastic! As we dropped down and the cold water stung our faces, we looked around and could see for about 60 feet, the visibility was fantastic and we forgot about our numb hands (stay tuned for a post detailing what kind of gear we use to dive in Aleutian waters).
We deployed nine benthic chambers for a total length of 24 hours in Tanaga. The goal of these experiments are to measure community photosynthesis and respiration, and how this differs in between the diminishing kelp forests and expanding sea urchin barrens, These experiments are going to be replicated on several islands over the course of two years.
To break it down, we deployed the chambers and sensors during our first couple dives on Friday and then returned every 6-8 hours to flush the chambers so new oxygenated water could fill the chamber. In between chamber deployments we also deployed incubation bags to look at photosynthesis on a smaller scale. These bags hold a piece of the dominant canopy forming kelp (Eulariafistulosa) and float in the water column for 3 hours. We thought this part of the experiment would be a piece of cake, however it turned out deploying 24 of these bags is a bit harder than we thought (as it goes with all subtidal research) and it took us a majority of the afternoon.
If we have a hard dive or can’t feel our limbs after a long day out on the boats it is ok because everything is so insanely beautiful and the ship has unlimited snacks, coffee, and an ice cream freezer to keep you going when it’s too cloudy to see land. More on what it is like to live on a research ship in future posts!
Once diving operations are complete for the day we head back to the ship and stuff our faces with food and load up on coffee to prepare for sorting samples that are collected by the Konar lab. Biodiversity sorting continues into the ‘night,’ but if you manage to not look at a clock then you can trick yourself into not being tired because it stays light here until 1-2am.
Back to sorting! More updates to come. -Genoa
Tristin McHugh swimming through a (Eularia fistulosa) kelp forest on Tanaga island Photo: Genoa Sullaway
Dr. Matt Edwards, Genoa Sullaway, Scott Gabara, and Pike Spector getting ready for a dive. Photo: Tristin McHugh
Dr. Matt Edwards, Pike Spector and Tristin McHugh at the dive site! It's a bit chilly... Photo: Genoa Sullaway
Eularia fistulosa at Tanaga Island Photo: Genoa Sullaway
Seastars from benthic Swath surveys. Photo: Genoa Sullaway