Date: July 5, 2019
Location: Lat: 35.261978°, Lon: -74.873592°
Dive Depth Range: 860-1,034 meters (2,822-3,392 feet)
Today we found ourselves on an unexpected “cephalopod safari,” with a greater diversity of octopus and squid than we’ve seen on our previous dives of the expedition. We landed on a flat spot in a small canyon off the coast of North Carolina, at a depth of 1,034 meters (3,392 feet), where we found a soft, silty seafloor and a fair amount of marine snow and fine sediment in the water column. However, visibility was still far better than it had been on our previous dive. When we reached the bottom, we noticed a large number of short-finned squid (Illex sp.) darting around the seafloor, which seemed to become our near-constant companions on the dive.
Throughout the dive, we transited up the canyon wall and encountered some areas of exposed hard rock, and along the way, we observed a number of cutthroat eels, eel pouts, a number of fly-trap anemones, and two bobtail squid. Shortly into the dive, we saw the first of what turned out to be many octopods, including a spoon arm octopus (Bathypolypus bairdii); a warty octopus; and to the delight of many watching, a dumbo octopus (Stauroteuthis syrtensis). Aside from the cephalopods, we also saw many many pallid sculpins and snailfish, as well as several red crabs (Chaceon sp.). One particularly eventful species interaction occurred when we stopped to watch a Chaceon crab eating from a bed of pallid scupin eggs, before suddenly retreating as a larger crab approached.
We ended our dive at a depth of about 860 meters (2,822 feet), at which point remotely operated vehicle Deep Discoverer returned to the surface, and we began our usual overnight mapping operations. Of particular interest will be collecting mapping data that will inform tomorrow’s dive (July 6, 2019) and to search for potential underwater cultural heritage sites. Tomorrow’s dive will take place in an area where active bubble plumes were detected on earlier NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer expeditions and which were confirmed in our mapping efforts yesterday. This activity indicates the presence of an active seep and potentially its associated fauna.