6 August 2007
Flying fish everywhere. One entire station we were treated to a spectacle of the family Exocoetodae. Flying fish were skimming the water like skipping stones. Airborne fish frisbees 100's of them. These fishy biplanes have evolved a great escape mechanism, in this case they are quickly moving away from the boat. Flying fish usually live near the surface of the water and skip when frightened, using their fins as wings to glide through the air.
Snagged a lobster buoy early this morning and graduate student Katie was back in the water freeing the propeller so we could get underway to our first station. All continue to keep an eye out for lobster trap buoys in the shallow areas. Other than that is it hot hot hot today. Not a breath of wind, a zero on the Beaufort scale of 0-12. With zero having no wind and 12 is a full force hurricane. Not a good day for sailing, but an excellent day to see creatures at the water surface. Saw several splashes from sea turtles taking a dive. Also saw a mixed flock of about 40-50 seabirds feeding as large fish broke the surface of the water.
The Marquesas Keys are known to be a good site for studying lemon sharks, reef sharks and others. The closest we'll get to those sharks is seeing the larvae of shark food in our icthyoplankton samples.
Since we are steaming in to Key West, I grabbed a moment to talk with Research Associate Cedric Guigand who is constantly busy. He grew up in France on the North Sea and received his masters degree at Florida Tech. in marine biology working on the feeding behavior of tarpon. Over the 5 years he has been working with Dr. Bob Cowen, he has grown more interested in the engineering and technological aspects of research. One of their first projects was refining the MOCNESS design to include a double array of plankton nets. It's a novel sampling system and really a marvel to see in action. Another ambitious project of his is the ISIIS, the plankton imaging system, he designed in collaboration with an engineering friend (patent pending and mentioned on 4 August). He likes boat based research and someday would like to start his own business. When he's not trouble shooting the equipment onboard, he likes to SCUBA dive, or sail his Hobie Cat. Wow, I just got a huge present. Cedric dropped off a collection of his underwater photographs of larval reef fishes on a flash drive. Can't wait to share them in class.
Because of the calm sea state, had my best sighting of dolphins so far. I watched a pod of ~10 dolphins surfacing and diving in pairs. Their dark heads and dorsal fins break the surface as they take a long series of shallow dives. Probably feeding on small fish. Lots to see when the surface is dead calm...