Day 4 Voyaging to the deep: Chantelle Cook

By September 28th, 2017

Coral spwan

When I awoke today, we were just off Fraser Island, Queensland. The view off the coastline shrank away as we headed further offshore today to avoid the reef. We’re approximately 660 nautical miles offshore now and counting!

The move offshore means that we have moved outside of the whale migration corridor and thus, no further whale sightings at the moment. We have managed to see a few brown booby birds flying around. Nice and close too, so we were able to get a close up view of their features. As we are further offshore, we are now seeing a change in bird species. The terns and shear waters are disappearing and the birds we are seeing now are strong gliders, who use the wind to travel further distances and take the oppotuity to have a well earned rest on the ship.

Although we had a lack of animals to observe today, we did observe an as yet ‘unconfirmed floating organism’! At first, we hypothesised that the substance may be a type of algae. We checked the biological indicators to try and confirm our thoughts. The fluorometry levels did not seem to correspond with our theories… something wasn’t right! Upon investigation, a technical glitch meant that our data wasn’t transponding to us appropriately and what we thought was live biological data, was in fact two hours old. No wonder it wasn’t making sense!

As we observed further, we noted that there were no animals feeding from this, so we could assume it held no nutritional value. We saw a pattern in where the ‘organism’ was coming from—off the coast line of the islands (Fraser, Lady Elliot Heron Island and surrounding archipelago). Someone suggested, this could be coral spawn. Intense scientific debate ensued. There was no smell, there was no foam. Were we close enough to the reef? What caused the foam and smell? Was the smell and foam something that only happened at the shoreline when it sat in the hot sun and decomposed? Was it the right time of year? What caused coral to spawn? Questions, questions, questions!Chantelle

We looked at aerial images of coral spawn, which seemed very close to what we had in front of us. We learnt that the conditions for coral spawning were a full moon and a spike in water temperature, both of which were conditions that have presented themselves recently.

So algae or coral spawn? The verdict is still inconclusive but we are leaning towards coral spawn! Let’s hope that we have lots of baby corals planting and establishing themselves around the ocean off the Queensland coast!