Day 2: Testing Times

Waking up to bright Scottish sunshine immediately put both scientists and crew in a good mood, and we arrived at Mingulay Reef Complex ahead of schedule. The sunglasses were out, and there was even talk of shorts!

Once at site, testing of all the scientific equipment began. While all our gear works perfectly in the lab it can be a different matter when hundreds of meters underwater and subject to immense pressure.

The moving vessel profiler was deployed, and with a bit of tweaking, was soon giving us information about the temperature and salinity around the reef, and even the size of particles in the water column.

This was followed by the CTD rosette and deep-water pump. The CTD rosette basically consists of an array of water bottles which were be triggered to close remotely, allowing us to get water samples deep on the reef and all the way up to the surface. More about the CTD can be found on the equipment page. Courtesy of Janina from GEOMAR, we had a deep-water pump, which we can hook up to the CTD rosette, deploy to 50 m and pump that deeper water back up to the ship. We will use this water in the coral tanks, so when we bring the animals up they are in water that is similar to their environment on the reef. The 50 m length of hosing required many hands on deck, making sure it didn't get hooked up on any other equipment. Everyone took this opportunity to be out in the sunshine, and cameras were at the ready to see the first piece of equipment over the side of the ship!

Team SPI were next up with the test run, and the images taken were spectacular – some stunning crinoids. That was a tick in the box for the SPI camera test.

Finally, the ROV went in the water, and we waited with baited breath for our first views of the reef. We weren’t disappointed, at 160 m the reef appeared and we saw ophiuroids, worms, and fish around the bright white Lophelia reefs. The highlight of the dive was the appearance of a basking shark, who was obviously intrigued by this yellow robot appearing at its home! Corals were collected, and made their new homes in our carefully prepared tanks, ready to be part of some science!

For the scientists, day 2 marked the start of shift work, so the night team started to stagger their sleeps so they could be up and raring to go at midnight, working through until midday. Although it's a challenge to be up and ready at midnight, we are rewarded with the daily sunrise, a spectacular site in the Hebrides. Tomorrow will be another exciting day, with a visit from the BBC One Show and schoolchildren from the Isle of Benbecula – a great opportunity for them to see what we do, and for us to show what science can bring.