Brian_290ft_90m_1_7_2014[s]

Brian Greene assumes position with a large gorgonian colony at 90 m. Photo: Sonia J. Rowley

We descend – it’s a riot of life with gorgonians and fish a plenty, I’m in heaven! Excited, Brian whips over to the biggest gorgonian colony we’ve seen yet and assumes position, then we head to collecting, it’s on! The reef is a flat slope absolutely littered with invertebrates, gorgonians the major players with fish carpeting the reef with their sheer abundance as well as cryptically darting within colony to colony. The light penetrates so deeply that it is not necessary to switch my lights on until ~ 90 m (290 ft), and when I do the pressure is too much and they don’t work! So, washed out shots of gorgonians at depth for this dive! Nevertheless, at 75 m I find colonies of the zooxanthellate (possessing single-celled algae just like the hard corals) gorgonian Briareum. To my knowledge, this is the first record of a zooxanthellate gorgonian at such depths.

Deep-reef Zooxanthellate gorgonian coral Briareum: what it did look like, what it generally looks like! Photo's: Sonia J. Rowley

Deep-reef Zooxanthellate gorgonian coral Briareum: what it did look like, what it generally looks like! Photo’s: Sonia J. Rowley

Two more new gorgonian species to science, new records and undescribed fish a plenty, and up we go. At 60 m (196 ft) we can clearly see the boat on the surface. Mind blowing!

Nicella n.sp. (new species of gorgonian coral) at 102 m depth with associate brittle stars. Photo: Sonia J. Rowley

Nicella n.sp. (new species of gorgonian coral) at 102 m depth with associate brittle stars. Photo: Sonia J. Rowley

Brian is a man of stealth, precision and strength, so much so that he renders the boat inoperable as he whips out the engine cord! At full speed we are 45 minutes from base, we get a tow. It must be said however, that I have the utmost respect for my fishy fix-everything brethren. I hover around them like the dumb broad I depict awaiting instruction and keen to learn, just as a child on the boat with my father. Having regrets for the timidity of my youth, life presents a second chance to learn from these practically minded fellows, of which I’m forever in awe of their ability to solve all scrapes and seemingly insurmountable issues at a whim.

Brian D. Greene (the guilty party), the tow with Rob Whitton, and KM (driver) with Rich Pyle engineering our freedom back to base! Photo's: Sonia J. Rowley.

Brian D. Greene (the guilty party), the tow with Rob Whitton, and KM (driver) with Rich Pyle engineering our freedom back to base! Photo’s: Sonia J. Rowley.

Rich is our chief engineer, spring-boarding ideas at random, typically with great success. Without toolbox Rich and KM (our driver) get us home in the nick of time – the evening downpour awaits.

Home sweet home ready for specimen processing! Photo: Sonia J. Rowley

Home sweet home ready for specimen processing. Tough times! Photo: Sonia J. Rowley