Fisheries and Oceans Research Expedition to Howe Sound Glass Sponge Bioherms

On October 2, 2016, Sheila Byers, MLSS President, had a ride down memory lane with the opportunity to join the Fisheries and Oceans scientists on the Coast Guard vessel Neocaligus in Howe Sound. One of the main goals of the expedition was for the scientists to collect ROV video and images from 12 new glass sponge bioherms in Howe Sound that were discovered by Glen Dennison, MLSS Director, and his team using the drop camera and GPS coordinated 3-dimensional (3-D) mapping system Glen developed. Using the remotely operated vehicle, Phantom HD2, Neocaligus successfully located and documented the 12 bioherms, including videographs and still-photographs, over a period of about four days.

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In the ship’s ROV control room, I was able to watch the Phantom’s descent towards the seabed. Multitudes of arrow worms, shrimp and copepods zoomed by in the murky depths, but all that paled as the beautiful white cloud sponges loomed into view. Was this for real? Long-armed squat lobsters peeking out from the sponges. Was that a kelp greenling zooming by? There’s a quillback rockfish and is that two freckled pale sea lemons mating?! It has been many years since I was on a research vessel and it felt good to be back on the water once again exploring the marvels of bottom-dwelling marine life; even if only for a day. But seeing the spectacular sponge bioherms through the eyes of the Phantom was an experience too good to be true; a once in a lifetime opportunity for me. The only trip that could beat this would be to see the sponge bioherms from INSIDE a manned submersible. But until such time as that happens, I was loving every minute of this trip with my eyes glued to the monitor screen.

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