Michael Reuscher is a PhD student at Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi and a freshly minted submersible pilot engaged in the Finding Corals Expedition. He has been reporting since June 5, sends this from the RV Cape Flattery, currently stationed off the coast of British Columbia.
I am sitting inside the Deep Worker 2000 on the bottom of the Mid Moresby Trough (to the East of the island Haida Gwaii) at a depth of 1269 feet. I am waiting…
On the display of my video deck, I can see the seconds and minutes tick away. It is not as silent as you would imagine: The life support systems are humming, the speakers of the underwater radio are crackling, and intermittently I hear the voice of Sasha, our topside coordinator from the Nuytco team and Tom Shirley’s from the other sub. I am still waiting…
Inside the submersible it is chilly: My feet, touching the steel pedals, are starting to feel cold although packed into three pairs of socks, little fans, built in a CO2 absorbing device, are constantly blowing, the water vapor of my breath is condensing on the cold steel of the cabin and slowly dripping down. I am still waiting down at 1269 feet.
Tom’s sub, down at the bottom in sight distance just a few minutes ago, is being recovered. The tracking device of his Deep Worker was not working. I am waiting while I hear Tom’s voice every few minutes telling his depth while he is ascending: 700 feet…600 feet…500 feet… During an expedition not everything works as planned. Today I have to dive alone.
Even though my rest is unintended, sitting silently on the bottom is as interesting as hovering above it. I am melting into the underwater world, becoming a part of it. Some sablefish seem to disagree. They are patrolling curiously around my metal cage, some even attacking it. I am observing a majestic big skate strolling around, little squids and a bizarre siphonophore swimming around my Plexiglas dome, and, my personal highlight, a big tomopterid polychaete, maybe 15 inches long swimming slowly and elegantly through the scenery.
Finally, after 45 minutes or so waiting is over and I start my routine dive. The whole area is covered by muddy soft sediment- not a good place for finding corals. Instead I run across a couple of trawling tracks. The imagination of a bottom trawl shooting by out of the dark makes me shiver. Good to know that we have a three miles safety zone around the RV Cape Flattery that guarantees the safety of the pilots while in the deep