Written by Stephanie Kane, WM class of 2012
The weather was daunting when we left in the early morning for our next excursion, particularly because we were planning on a full day research cruise aboard the the Prince Madog.
It was still drizzling and threatening more when we arrived at the dock, received our safety briefing from the captain, set up our gear, and climbed onto the top deck to get a unique view of the Menai Strait. The ship was stacked five floors high, in addition to the engine room; standing up near the top provided some beautiful scenery.
As it turns out, the weather was beautiful by 10 o’ clock, and we were well under way in our task for the day. Most of our day we spent on the back deck and the adjacent cabin.
It went like this: on the back deck the ships crew used a trawl, a net that dragged along the bottom behind the boat, to pull up samples at different points in Red Wharf Bay. The net pulled up quite a few flat fish, sea stars, urchins, and hermit crabs; we also saw the occasional edible crab, cat shark, octopus, and tiny cuttlefish…and about one billion brittle stars. We sorted these into vertebrates and invertebrates, either in the cabin or on the back deck if the catch was big enough. Jordan single-handedly identified and counted the invertebrates (but not all the brittle stars, because that would have been insane) and the rest of us alternated between two teams identifying and measuring the different fish species.
There were a few standouts: particularly large, particularly cool or particularly ugly organisms (these weren’t mutually exclusive).
There was a Jurassic-sized edible crab (we ate it). There was also a weever fish or two, which have a neurotoxin in a spine on their dorsal fins. We landed two octopuses, one of which also had a neurotoxin (I should mention at this point that we were wearing gloves while we were sorting these). My personal favorites were the cuttlefish, which were not bigger than the tip of my thumb.
Of course there was tea available to us at all times (how could there not be) and we broke for a lunch from the galley, lentil soup, rolls, fries and a few other snacks here and there. After all the trawling was done we went up in shifts to get a look at the navigations equipment in the bridge on the way back to the dock. We left the ship slightly smelly and quite a bit nautical after spending very interesting day on the water.