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Entry for October 12, 2007

New fish, shrimp and other creatures captured by the deep net
The trawl results from yesterday were stunning. New fish, shrimp and other creatures were captured by the deep net, which confirmed animals were avoiding the bright lights of the ROV. There are other animals that we cannot catch with the net, but can be caught with the ROV sampling devices. It reinforced confidence in our strategy to study the Celebes with a wide range of methods. Using only one technique limits what you learn about the ocean.

I have not said much about the food, but I have been asked to describe it. Since we only have five days left on the boat and two days on site, I best say something now.

The menu is a fairly uninspired orchestra with the dominant section being white rice. Our plates runneth over and over with rice, three times a day. The rice is usually accompanied by a small whole coral reef fish (the kind you pick the meat off the bones while the grey lifeless eyes stare up at you). We make a point of identifying the fish; after all we are a room full of marine biologists—we've eaten fusilier, small groupers, mackerel and tuna. When not fish, it is usually pork and maybe a spoonful of canned green beans, corn or baked beans. The Filipinos are not really into dessert. We usually have a few pieces of papaya, mango or canned peaches for dessert. They also serve snacks between meals. Snacks are usually spaghetti, macaroni salad or once, and this was a big hit with the North American expedition members, hamburgers.

The dining area of this ship is the only place that we can gather inside for large meetings. In between dives, at any hour of the day, a common sight is to have a group of us gathered there sitting around a low table covered in ocean books sitting at random angles, magazines, scientific papers, and DVDs. Expedition ocean wise man Bill Hamner brought most of this material and includes, thankfully, a fairly good literature search of all previous work done in Celebes. Compared to the wet and wild bustle of the lab with tweezers, pipettes, microscopes, plankton, kreisels and jellyfish; or the dark spaceship bridge-like concentration found in the ROV control room; or the noisy hot mechanical world of the aft deck, this low table and chairs mess hall is the intellectual center of the cruise. It is a place to reflect, integrate and consider what we are finding, adjacent to the galley so any meeting or discussion held here runs no risk of missing a serving.

Today, Bill hit upon a way to possibly connect the shallow waters of the Celebes Sea with the deeper regions we are exploring.

During our deep explorations, we have been finding coconuts, and piles of sea grasses on the ocean floor washed off the islands that rim the Celebes. Bill speculates that this may be a critical input of nutrients for the deep sea ecosystem, largely because the Celebes is isolated in the deep from other water and circulation. It might be that healthy sea grass beds are essential for healthy deep sea and that if habitats close to shore are destroyed or depleted, it could be bad for the deep sea life--an important concept illustrating how connected ocean habitats are.