Thursday, August 23, 2012

Shark fishing and snorkelling

Back on the ship the expeditioners got to go snorkelling with the Experiencing Marine Reserves (EMR) crew, and most of us saw sharks and lots of fish. Some lucky ones even saw turtles. We had a professional underwater photographer with us, Steve Hathaway, so I didn't bother to take any photos - here is a link to the video on youtube.

Rochelle and I ready to go snorkelling

Clinton Duffy also spent most evenings fishing for sharks of the stern ramp. He was taking DNA samples from the sharks (a little clip off one of their fins) to determine how related these Galapagos sharks are to others around the South Pacific. Many of the crew and students helped out with the fishing, while Clinton just wrestled the sharks as they were brought on board. The first night they weren't biting when squid was put out in the berley bag, but then they switched it to pilchards and it worked a treat. They managed to catch 17 galapagos sharks and 5 smooth hound sharks that are unknown, so Clinton kept a sample to take back to the Auckland Museum to describe and name it.

 Clinton getting the fishing rods ready

 The undescribed species of smooth hound shark

Clinton and co. wrestling one of the larger galapagos sharks to take the measurements, DNA sample and attach a tag

Unfortunately, despite a lot of patience and a couple of chases on the RHIB, Rochelle Constantine only got a couple of photos of dolphin fins and one biopsy sample from a whale for her research on cetaceans from this region. It was a lot easier to collect plankton samples and I used my net on 3 nights and got a whole range of beasties that we looked at down the microscope I had brought along with me. As far as we know this is the first time that anyone has sampled for plankton in this area, so hopefully there is something of interest for the experts.

After 10 days it was time to sail back to New Zealand, a relatively uneventful and smooth trip back, with time to discuss many things that had happened and for the kids to discuss the problems of the world and how they were going to solve them (I'm sure I was that naive too at that age). Although there was one last bit of excitement as the Navy had to rescue some guys whose boat was sinking just off the Coromandel Peninsular. They had just been practising their helicopter winching the day before, so they were ready to go. It took them 38 minutes. Go the Navy!

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