Today was an unusual day at-sea. We set sail from San Diego promptly at 7:00 a.m. and arrived at our first dive target 3 hours later.
ROV Doc Ricketts was launched (see blog landing page for a video!) and we were several hours into exploring a 40-m wide methane seep off of Del Mar, with bright orange bacterial mats, unusual worms, and carbonate rocky outcrops with numerous snails. En route we even got distracted by what looked like an old refrigerator covered in lithodid crabs. Then... the navy called. They were conducting covert submarine exercises in the same area and demanded that we recover our, comparatively small, submersible at once. We obliged, and after a few phone calls and several hours, they granted us access to resume diving.
At 4:00 we reached the seafloor again and this time had the chance to more fully explore the area and collect specimens. Once back on board, we were happy. The microbiologists got their mud (10 pushcores worth!) with effusive methane gas bubbles and ropey thick orange bacteria blankets. The macrobiologists got their worms (nereids and spionids) and snails (provannids and the super cute Parvaplustrum), and everyone was able to initiate experiments examining whether these organisms use the methane gas emanating from the seafloor.