Brazilian team member Liana Mendez waves good-bye to the RVSJ from a shuttle boat taking her and many of the other Brazilian crew back to Fernando de Noronha. In the coming days, most will return to their homes on the mainland.
Team members Mahmood Siviji (left), Licky Drake, Anja Petersen, and Damian Champman discuss the the best locations to store the massive amount of gear accumulated in this and an ajoining lab.
Keeping order of chaos, lists thick with hilighted and checked items spill across one of the lab's counters.
CLICK HERE to learn more about @Sea correspondent, Mark Carroll.
DISPATCH 19: Back to Natal
@Sea correspondent/photographer, Mark Carroll
A Caribbean reef shark, a prolific predator in these
waters, patrols the algae-covered rocks.
9:32am, March 29, onboard the Research Vessel SEWARD JOHNSON (RVSJ) -- This morning,
three weeks of adventurous shark research officially came to an
end. Our efforts involved a lot of sweat, and a bit of blood, but the research team will go home with all of the limbs and digits they had when they arrived. The last, weary longlining team hauled themselves onto the deck of the RVSJ after a hard night at
sea. Their all-night lemon sharking run met with little success. There were adult lemons in these waters -- we saw them
yesterday, but the longliners only managed to catch a few stingrays, some
jacks, and LOTS of Caribbean reef sharks.
The Carribean reef shark is stonger and faster than the lemon shark. But,
they don't have the extreme flexibility that the lemon does -- good news for
shark handlers because the reef shark cannot turn around and bite as easily.
Nevertheless, the researchers are still vigilant around the animals,
knowing their powerful capabilites.
Most of the largest sharks captured on this expedition were Caribbean reef
sharks. They tend to patrol reefs around islands. Although they can reach over 8-feet long, the largest one
we captured was about six-and-a-half feet.
"The Caribbean reef shark is a stereotypical shark," said longliner Dean
Grubbs after his return from a hectic night at sea. "It's the kind of animal
you think about when people say 'shark'. It just glides through the water
like a plane. Beautiful!"
7:20pm, onboard the RVSJ -- As the RVSJ prepared to leave Fernando de
Noronha, we said goodbye to many of the Brazilian crew. Most of them had
plans to stay in F.N. for a few more days (who could blame them), then
return to their homes on the mainland. With hugs, smiles and waves, the
Brazilians departed while the remainder of the team hoisted anchor and began
the long 36-hour trip to Natal -- back to the port where this expedition
10:00am, March 30, onboard the RVSJ -- The long voyage home is
providing the crew with plenty of time to clean and store their
salt-encrusted gear, checking off progress on detailed checklists, and
lists of lists. The ship's lab is a staging area with gear spilling across
counters and onto the floor. Some of the
equipment will find its way into the hands of locals, some back to Gruber's
shark lab in Bimini, Bahamas and some to the R/V Sea Diver, another of the
Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution's world-class research vessels,
where it will remain readied for future shark research.
The crew seems preoccupied by the future. I think we are all ready for
our arrival in Natal -- still 23 hours away -- anxious to return to the
mainland, and to get a step closer to home. For now, the team continues to pack and put the finishing touches on their field work, with obvious pride in their accomplishments of the last three weeks.
Make sure to come back tomorrow for Mark's final dispatch of the Brazil mission. We'll fill you in on what's next for @Sea, and also let you know what's next for Mark Carroll, Dr. Gruber, and the RVSJ!