Cruise Days 5 and 6: Long transits, healthy stars

Day 5 started with an early departure from Bellingham, heading southbound towards the Strait of Juan de Fuca to sample sites on the Olympic National Park [edit: Olympic Peninsula – not the Olympic National Park!]. This necessitated quite the haul for the morning – the vessel didn’t reach Smith Island, about 2/3 the way to Dungeness Bay until 11:30 am. However, the team were richly rewarded for sacrificing station time for transit, recovering a very healthy adult Pycnopodia helianthoides from the trawl. Smith Island was an ammunition storage facility during WW2, and is surrounded by a broad shelf of rocks and sand. Perfect sea star habitat! The trawls were performed in ~ 35 – 40 m of water, which are of course deeper than any recreation diver can go.

Early morning departure from Bellingham towards the Olympic Peninsula

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Healthy Pycnopodia helianthoides recovered from Smith Island – good to see!

After a successful first haul, the team decided to perform another trawl to see what else they could find. Not quite as cleanly as the first, the team pulled up a couple of holothurians (Parastichopus) and an Evasterias troscheli.

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Healthy mottled star from ~ 40m depth

After spending a couple of hours on station, the team proceeded south towards Dungeness Bay, another site which harbored excellent asteroid habitat. During the transit, a rarity in oceanography occurred: The Barnes crossed paths with the Thompson, the other UW research vessel. It made for some outstanding photos!

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The R/V Thompson at sea

After a short transit the crew arrived in Dungeness Bay, where the trawl pulled up another large star – this time an Orthasterias kohleri, and well as several Henricia and a slime star.

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Elliot pleased with the haul.

Ian hadn’t kept an eye on the time, and realized after the second station that the vessel needed to transit to the evening’s port, Port Ludlow. Still, success with sea stars in the trawls more than made up for the short work day.

After a quiet night in very sleepy Port Ludlow the team transited to the southern tip of Marrowstone Island. The weather by this stage had turned relatively unpleasant – with a 20 kt squall coming from the south. So far the cruise had flat seas and sunny conditions, so this was the first taste of the Pacific Northwest’s conditions as they normally exist. However, despite the cold and damp, the team was rewarded with one of the best hauls of sea stars we’d recovered from the entire cruise:three Evasterias, 14 Henricia and a Solaster stimpsonii. All looked free of disease. IMG_4530Frosty start at Port Ludlow

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Squalls!

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Next, the crew made its way south to Skunk Bay, where yet again the team recovered unexpected and interesting samples of Dermasterias and more Henricia.

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Dermasterias imbricata

Finally, the team moved south to Apple Cove, near Seattle, where as a final hurrah they recovered a sea cucumber (Cucumarina sp) and some ophiuroids.

All stations complete, the team returned to port at the University of Washington’s campus, where they offloaded gear, said farewells, and shipped off samples back to Ithaca. All in all the team collected 634 samples of echinoderms, amphipods and copepods, and learned a great deal about the ecology and biogeography of the Salish Sea. Time will tell whether SSaDV lurks in these samples, but in summation we saw only a couple of ‘funky’ looking animals during the trip – the vast majority were totally healthy.

Next, Ian and Elliot stay in Seattle for a few days to participate in a workshop about sea star wasting being sponsored by the Seattle Aquarium (Lesanna Lahner). It will be good to share our observations!

Edit: You can view the ‘official’ video for the cruise here

 


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