After ten days of underwater (and above water) work, we have completed all the tasks we set out to complete. In 23 dives, we installed 26 recruitment plates, 13 fixed frame sites, two current meters, five temperature loggers, and one conductivity meter. We are exhausted but energized by the experience, and we are already looking forward to the opportunity to come back to these beautiful channels to continue monitoring the sites we prepared and to offload data and swap out equipment. It can’t come soon enough.
After swapping out the two current meters in two different sites we began the process of photographing the long term monitoring experiments. To our surprise some of the recruitment plates we put out in March 2016 already had some life on them! Some anemones (closed up in this picture) are happy to colonize the free space.
We establish three sites in the canal and work feverishly to drill enough holes to install our equipment with the limited number of days we have left. The time it takes to drill is the bottleneck of the operation. With the force one must exert to operate the drill and remain in place against the current we are consuming air much more rapidly than normal. We install two current meters (seen in above photo). This device measures the speed and direction of the current in the canal, which seems to be wind driven by the neighboring larger bodies of water at either end of the canal. We assume that the current is wind driven because within a one hour period it can easily change directions entirely up to three times.
Our pneumatic drill, which runs off of the compressed air from a scuba tank and down a long hose to 20m depth, is proving to be difficult to use in the extreme current. We push on and devise new gear for holding the air hose in place while we work so the drill doesn’t get carried away. In extreme conditions like this teamwork is key, and being able to communicate well underwater in a split second is crucial. This underwater communication gets better the more you dive with your dive buddies and after being in some tough situations with the current and the equipment, we have all become really good at understanding each other underwater, even with just a glance or a facial expression.