Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Milly: Ugly Fish pt 7

Milly: Ugly Fish pt 1
Milly: Ugly Fish pt 2
Milly: Ugly Fish pt 3
Milly: Ugly Fish pt 4
Milly: Ugly Fish pt 5
Milly: Ugly Fish pt 6

Always dark on the night shift... Image: web
Prepare to commence trawl two. When you have been on a night shift from 4pm to 4am and a trawl is due to hit the deck at 2am, chances are your body clock is going to be a tad confused. Last time I nearly fell asleep in my fish dissection, started writing backwards and couldn’t retain a two digit number in my head for more than 1millisecond. Not doing that again. New tactic! Since I had allocated rest time before the trawl... I decided to stay awake for 28 hours before the trawl, have a sleep then be all fresh and ready for action once the slimy catch was brought aboard. Problem with that is staying awake for 28 hours with absolutely nothing to do tends to send you a bit West. I became inaudible, talking at extremely low baritone frequencies if you can even call it talking, more like incoherent blatherings. The day shift tolerated me well. The rewards were great however, and this time, we were super fish team extraordinaire (well, we functioned without any breakdowns anyhow).

Much like last time, the trawl net was opened (noticeably more rotund this time, a good sign) and catch was spilled into a large bucket ready for inspection. Unfortunately on the last trawl we managed to scoop up a large amount of clinker (burnt coal from steam ships of the past) which made sorting through the cucumbers and delicately removing gelatinous fish nigh impossible. This time, we had little ocean floor debris so I zealously sunk my arms into the cold, slippery assortment of fish, cucumbers and crustaceans and pulled out a big, heavy object. “Oh wow, an exciting find" I thought to myself. “Doesn’t feel like a cucumber, maybe it is a big leathery fish, woohoo!" It was a shoe, a big, woman’s boot. I then proceeded to dig out two bottles and a rock. Thankfully Alan and Juliette were being slightly more sensible and actually searching for fish shaped objects and so commenced a slithery extraction of rattails, smooth-heads, some unfortunate midwater fish and a huge cusk-eel.

Is it a fish?! Is it a holothuriuan?! No. It's a bloody shoe.

Histiobranchus sp., a deep sea eel. Image: Zan 
Cusk-eel! Image: Zan 
 Lovely cusk-eel (Ophidiid). Image: Nina

We had fewer fish this time round, but they were all in really great condition, great for samples we thought, but then memories of hours in the dark surfaced in my brain and I realised that watching 3 horror films to try and stay awake was, perhaps, a terrible idea. Juliette and I managed to put aside a few minutes whilst our fish eyes were on ice to explore the trawl and the sorting process in the wet lab. It looked how I would imagine a backstreet fishmongers from a sci-fi film to look. All manner of strange beasts being weighed and measured and samples for DNA analysis being taken left right and centre. The fish were amazing. There was one fish, aptly named ‘Jellyface’ by Zan, which had a large rounded nose, a small mouth and two, what looked like sensory pits, next to the eyes. The skin on the head felt very bizarre, much like a stubbly beard. The cusk-eel felt even stranger, as you ran your fingers across its skin you felt a crackling sensation which could be due to tiny bubbles under the skin forming as the fish is brought up from depth, decompressing the air within its cells. 

'Jellyface'. Image: Zan

Juliette having a good rummage around in the cucumbers. Image: Nina
Not the most attractive of creatures.
According to one scientist this cucumber is "cute", "look at it's little hat!" she said. I later discovered this 'little hat' is in fact a parasitic anemone. The deep sea is a very strange place! Image: Nina

I had been challenged by one of my supervisors to kiss a benthic fish. Now, he may well have been joking, but I considered this something I should take very seriously and so I sought out the loveliest of all the fish in the catch, the cusk-eel and planted my lips firmly upon its slimy....mouthparts. Picture taken. Job done.

I think the picture says it all. Image: Nina

So why is all of this necessary? Larking about aside, we are taking samples for serious and important science and all possible information is always gathered from these trawls, to make the most of each catch. Stay tuned for
 an explanation of the science behind the sampling, most likely in the form of an interview with Juliette McGregor (she doesn't know this yet). Roll on the final trawl. Fingers crossed my supervisor doesn’t up the stakes, kissing a benthic fish is one thing, but kissing a sea cucumber, well that's a whole different level of gross.


Becci said...

Bet you'll smell charming when you get back with all that fish kissing, have you cabin fever?

Milly said...

I took my boiler suit off during the last trawl because I was too hot, picked up an 8kg fish and subsequently will have to burn my jumper. No cabin fever but I must remember to go outside every now and then to stave off rickets....

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Michael Bok said...

Your supervisor seemed very proud of that last picture.