As Hypoxia continues and the ship weaves westward into blue waters, oil rigs have become less and less prevalent and without them to light our horizon, it is difficult to see in the darkness where the water ends and the sky begins.
The waters are so clear here that when the rosette is in the water you can look at it from the side and see its whole profile under water. Additionally, when the Niskin bottle was 7 meters under the sea surface, we could see all of its details very clearly.
So many creatures visited us tonight that in lieu of choosing one creature of the night, we decided to dedicate the blog to a creature feature...
Dolphins!! Four Dolphins were seen playing at the bow of the boat. Of the four, one was much smaller than the others and looked like a baby/juvenile. It is always so neat to watch the Dolphins surf the boats wake, particularly watching how they interact with each other. These intelligent creatures are constantly communicating with each other, looking at each other, bumping into each other, and I'm sure if we had a microphone underwater we would hear them talking. Occasionally one of them would even turn to look up at us watching them. Probably just as curious of us as we were of them.
Baby Billfish - What at first appeared to be a 4" long needlefish unfurled its dorsal fin to reveal what looked like a sail!! So instead of a needlefish, we had a billfish -- sailfish or marlin -- on our hands. Jury is not out yet as to the exact fish, but one things for sure, it was awesome! Billfish are a large, predatory, and highly migratory group of fish that include Marlin, Sailfish, and Swordfish. Of these, the Sailfish is most known for its large dorsal fin. Though its sail is usually kept folded while swimming, it is raised when the fish is excited or scared in order to make itself seem larger, much like a kitten puffing up its tail. Considering there was a boat, bright lights, and squealing scientists, no wonder the little fish felt the need to raise its sail.
Hurricane of Fish
A cyclonic (yes, it really was counterclockwise!) swirl of a fish school stayed next to the ship for almost an entire station. The fish were small and silver. As they fed they would slightly switch the angel of their bodies, catching the light from our boat, reflecting back a flash of light. This "flashing" behavior is commonly observed in schools of fish. The overall effect of it at night looked like little lightning bolts in our fish hurricane.
Editorial correction: it has been brought to my attention that it was incorrect to say that one could only catch a fish in the rosette once in a blue moon, as we caught another one today. This time the fish was sufficiently trapped at it made it all the way on board. Looks like we landed a 1" long menhaden.