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Dispatch 19 – Identifying with Deep Sea Creatures

Lat: 40° N
Long: 177° E
Air temp: 21.87 °C, 71.36°F
Sea temp: 21.37 °C, 70.47 °F
Sky: Sunny, and beautiful!
True wind : 9.8 knots
Waves: 2-4 feet

One of the most exciting things about collecting animals with the IONESS is that you never know what unusual things it might bring up from the deep. On occasion we will get rather large squids, dark big-eyed fish, viper fish with long teeth, unusual amphipods, giant ctenophores, and other impressive residents of the mesopelagic zone. Many of the fish, squid and larger creatures are so rare that we will need to bring them to experts to identify for our database. On this cruise, instead of attempting to identify some of the larger organisms, we attempted to identify with them!

Squids like to hug! On the first IONESS cast we met a giant squid-like creature from around 1000-750 meters. It was very friendly, greeting IONESS operators Joe Cope and Debbie Steinberg with a big hello hug. After a few laughs, some deep conversation and tea, it was time to go back to the sea. The squid was returned to the ocean by VERTIGO scientist, Mary Silver, with one last hug.

Amphipods are relatively easy to identify from other crustaceans. They tend to be very active, large, and have lots of spines and claws. Zooplankton Ecologist Toru Kobari helped his new pal from the IONESS show off its large spiny front legs for use in future zooplankton ecology lectures. Much like a little puppy, the amphipod was very active and required a lot of attention. The demonstration quickly turned into a lively wrestling match.

College wrestling star Ken Buesseler faced off with another friendly deep sea creature caught in the IONESS. This large eyed fish came from the mesopelagic for a one time face-off to determine the Subarctic middle weight champion. The winner gets a kiss from Zooplankton Ecologist Debbie Steinberg.

One deep sea jelly that we were able to identify to species level was Beroe abyssicola . This large ctenophore, or comb jelly, is bioluminescent and will flash a bright blue-green upon contact. When looking at the wake of the boat at night, one will see a beautiful fireworks display from bioluminescent zooplankton flashing brightly as they are agitated by the moving ship. It is very exciting to catch one in our plankton net at night, although they do get upset when caught. Debbie Steinberg attempts to console a recently caught Beroe.

After a long day of identifying with deep sea friends, VERTIGO scientist Mark Gall found it nice to sit back and enjoy a refreshing dip in the hot tub to catch up on news and gossip.

— Stephanie Wilson (including the photos)