Friday, June 1, 2018

Cherry calamari

It was dark, and the water was full of silt. I could only see my light and the tips of Joe's bright red fins in front of me. The temperature was a chilly 57 F, but only small parts of my face were exposed to the water. The rest of my body was isolated by my drysuit, protected from the dark, cold ocean by neoprene and latex. Ahead of me, Joe stopped swimming and trained his light on something beside him. I pulled up short and pointed my light toward the spot. Behind me, Giorgio did the same.

"Must be fish," I thought, recalling Joe's affinity for charismatic megafauna. The three of us held still in the water column for a while, illuminating the slim, purple creatures with our dive lights, surveying them visually while trying not to disturb them otherwise. After a long minute, Joe started swimming forward again, using his light to illuminate the guide line strung across the seafloor. I followed suit, but after just two fin kicks, I had moved forward far enough to get a better view of the animals. They were not fish but squid! Four individuals, each about a foot long, hanging perfectly still in the water. They were pale, iridescent purple and had metallic blue flecks scattered across their skin. All were in the same posture, with their bodies parallel to the seafloor and their tentacles extended in a cone.

I had never seen squid in the wild before, and the sighting was the cherry on top of a week of successful dives at WHOI.

In preparation for my summer project, I'm testing out methods for deploying and recovering samplers on the seafloor. I'm deploying larval traps (essentially plastic tubes filled with preservative) and fouling panels (squares of plastic that things grow on), but while I've used each of these samplers before, I had never deployed them by hand while diving. Previously, I had just hung them off of a dock with rope or entrusted them to colleagues to add to an oceanographic mooring. I was pretty sure the deployment would go smoothly, but figured it was wise to test in a low-risk environment first. My dive buddies and I suited up and jumped in at the WHOI pier, just across the street from my office. I'm happy to say that after three test dives, everything is well-sorted and running smoothly. Deploying my samplers should be easy!

And on top of that - I got to see squid!

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