Saturday, 11 October 2008

Mauritius Cruise

The second cruise of the 2008 ASCLME expedition started with a bang on 4 October 2008 following the successful local launch of the ASCLME Project in Port Louis the previous evening. James took some good photos of the event and these will soon be added to the blog. The Mauritian Cruise was largely an oceanographic survey (physical, chemical and biological) along 8 transects perpendicular to Mauritius (see adjacent completed survey track). Due to time constraints the first transect was sampled on the way in from Madagascar and the last two lines to the north (7 & 8) were sampled during the first two days of the Mascarene Plateau Cruise. Due to limited survey time and almost no visible acoustic registrations only one pelagic blind trawl haul was carried out. The only fish species caught were some lantern fishes (Myctophidae) and a few juvenile barracudas (Sphyraenidae), tobies (Lagocephalus) and flounders (Bothidae). Overall, a total of 47 stations were sampled in little more than 5 days, which is more environmental stations than will be sampled during the current 43 day Mascarene Plateau Cruise!! The short survey period and two crew changes in between placed severe strain on the few scientists that had already found their sea-legs or were not prone to sea-sickness. Despite a lack of sleep and the loss of the bongo early on in the cruise, the Mauritian Survey was succesfully completed as planned and the scientists and crew of the Nansen should be congratulated on a job very well done!

On the way back to Port Louis, after completing line 6, we passed close by the ancient basaltic volcanic cone of Gunner's Quoin Island (also known as Coin de Mire seen in the photo above). We docked for the second time in Port Louis (attractive harbour & waterfront shown in the adjacent image) on 7 October and after a crew change on the 8th departed again to complete the last two lines of the Mauritius Survey and continue on with the Mascarene Plateau Survey. It is expected that no land will be sighted for the next five weeks! More on the eventful first day of the Mascarene Plateau Cruise tomorrow.

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