Day 19: 9 July 2020
Before beginning on the long transit to the ‘southern’ part of our voyage, we spend another two days sitting on Iceland’s continental shelf and doing ROV dives through the beautiful coral reef landscapes. Sadly, evidence of fishing pressures on these beautiful structures is visible. Corals need centuries to reach maturity, and on seafloor devastated by fishing activity they will probably never be able to grow again. Even in the bathymetry data we are able to see the footprint left behind by (most probably) the nephrops trawls – a fishing instrument used to skim over the seabed to catch lobster and langoustines. The positive side of this story is that the reefs were destroyed before people knew about their existence, and the reefs in the Lonsdjùp area were placed under protection in 2011. We aim to create more and more marine protected areas in the future.
Luckily, there are still some very vivid reefs and ocean inhabitants around us, as we can tell from the ROV dives. Thanks to incredibly good weather conditions – warm (well, as warm as it gets at 63° N, but t-shirt weather works!), sunny and calm sea – we can dive nearly every day.
Speaking of which – it is a unique experience to see R/V Sonne so far up north, as its usual area of operation is the Pacific and Indian Ocean. Although coronavirus is limiting a lot of travel, we now at least have the opportunity to do our research in the colder waters. Seeing this vessel in front of Iceland’s snow-covered summits is a very rare scene that we are able to enjoy, thanks to the gorgeous crew who took us on a Zodiac tour around our mother ship. Tomorrow it’s time to leave the continental shelf area and head for a region south of Iceland on the mid Atlantic ridge, where we hope to find hydrothermal vents.