Kermadec Trench: Boring eels


Another early start today. I released the fish trap first and the ascent and location was good. We scrambled the thing on deck to find it had actually worked. We caught a sleeper shark (Somniosidae antarcticus), a subnose eel (Simenchelys parasitica) and a cusk eel (Spectrunculus spp.). Amongst all that were dozens of amphipods, most notably Eurythenes gryllus, some isopods and a few decapods. So the trap works, samples are being taken and sub sampled, all is well on that front.

Next was the nail biter: I released the Hadal-Lander and it made its ascent. For reasons unbeknown to us, it took six of us over half an hour to find the thing on the surface. After starting to sweat a little bit about where on Earth (or rather the sea) it could be, it miraculously turned up. We brought the thing aboard and I started stripping it down to see what it had filmed.

Now, given the incredible run of bad luck I have had with this thing last year, I honestly had it in my mind that it would be void of data, but to my surprise it was full. Not only that, the lights were good, the illumination was even, it framed well and most importantly, the video footage was full of deep-sea fish. I could have ran out on deck and hugged it when I watched back some of the footage (but I didn’t). In brief it included a large ray, lots of cusk eels, chimaeras, blue hake, decapods and subnose eels.

While most of the footage was, well, just really entertaining to watch, in my mind the most interesting was watching the snubnoses. They are called ‘parasitica’ because despite looking as dumb as a block of cheese, they bore their heads into dead carcasses and drink the blood. There have even been cases of them boring into live fish. I have photographed this behavior before, but this time it is in video, and lots of it. They place their heads on the surface of the bait, open their mouth and then start spinning their whole body, eventually boring into it and then remaining there for some time afterwards. It is perhaps not something to show the kids, but it was fascinating to watch it.

We later recovered the Abyssal-lander and found it had taken stills of these usual suspects but also included some rather large stone crabs, which itself was interesting.

No rest for wicked though, with everything downloaded and backed up we steamed to the 3000 m site and deployed the Abyssal-Lander, followed shortly by the fish trap at 3250 m and finally the Hadal-Lander went down to 3500 m.

It was a good day knowing that all the grief that hunk of junk has caused me these last twelve months is actually paying off. I shouldn’t say that, I love it really.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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