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MESA Archives: Aleutian Islands Deep Water Corals Cruise, August 7, 2004

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Part I:  Jason II hits a snag. By science reporter Sonya Senkowsky.
Part II: What is coral? Sources: Scott France, Bob Stone and Jon Heifetz, as well as Bruce Wing and David Barnard's "Field Guide to Alaskan Corals" (draft) 2003.

  inspecting the rope
The rope that brought Jason IIís last dive of the Dutch Harbor-Adak leg to a halt Saturday afternoon lies coiled on the deck of the R/V Roger Revelle Saturday.  Biologists took samples of several of the soft corals found on the line.  Photo by Sonya Senkowsky.

Jason II hits a snag

The final Jason II dive of this leg of the cruise -- the last during my time aboard -- was abruptly cut short less than halfway through when the ROV stumbled across a derelict fishing line. (Biologists aboard think it was an old crabpot line.)

I watched as the crew brought Jason in close to the ship, then, by hand, hauled aboard a couple of hundred feet of line, freeing Jason so they could finish recovering the ROV. From a distance, it looked as if the men were hauling in old, badly frayed rope.

On closer inspection, this line was full of life. What I'd thought from a distance was frayed rope turned out to be different kinds of soft corals and other creatures.

Looking closer, I could even see clumps of thin, inch-long translucent animals, like little rice noodles with legs -- waving those legs frantically in the air. On closer inspection, I could see they weren't noodlelike at all, but more like insects -- maybe tiny praying mantises. Biologist Scott France explained that these caprellid amphipods, commonly called skeleton shrimp, make their livelihoods this way, hanging from hooks on their back legs and gathering food.

Close-up of rope

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