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    A nice bubblegum coral (Paragorgia arborea) suddenly appeared in front of the videorig. Routinely, the rig was raised to avoid damaging the coral. A white eye coral (Lophelia pertusa) and a red tree coral (Primnoa resedaeformis) are seen to the right.

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    Marine geochemist Henning Jensen (NGU) is preparing the gravity corer to collect an up to 3 metres deep sample of the seafloor sediments, giving information thousands of years back in time. The sample was taken at 460 meters depth on the Sklinna Bank.

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    Sediment sieving is necessary to separate out invertebrates before these are stored on board. Here, biologist Heidi Gabrielsen is sieving the last fine-fraction (0.5 mm) that we onboard call «the gold wash».

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    The distance is very short from the tubs with collected invertebrates to the deck laboratory – or the “wet-lab”, where a closer look at selected species may be taken. Biologist Yngve Johansen make notes in the deck log about sampling gears used, samples’ position, depth, etc.

The MAREANO survey continues to the Sklinna Bank off mid-Norway

Cruise diary: The ongoing MAREANO survey has now moved southwards from the Træna Bank to the Sklinna Bank on the mid-Norwegian shelf. The seafloor terrain here varies more than farther north, and we have found hitherto unregistered cold-water coral reefs.

At last, the summer heat has reached RV ‘G.O. Sars’ and the MAREANO survey. We are blessed with temperatures of 16–17 degrees, no wind, and even some coffee chatting in the sun on deck 5. Nice days although the onboard work – using oilskins, helmet and steel-toe boots – continues around the clock.

Currently, on the 13th day, we have collected videos from around hundred stations on the Træna Bank, Trænadjupet, the Sklinna Bank and the shelf farther west. 

Figure 1. Up to July 28, around hundred locations have been sampled from RV G.O. Sars during the MAREANO survey on the mid-Norwegian shelf. The survey ends in Tromsø August 3.

The Sklinna Bank seafloor terrain differs from the other areas surveyed. Over relatively small distances the terrain and seabed composition changes frequently between mud, sand, stony and other hard bottom. Additionally, the Sklinna bank area including Sklinnadjupet seem to have more living cold-water coral reefs (the eye coral, Lophelia pertusa) that are not yet registered in the Norwegian Coral Database (see www.mareano.no). The species richness is high on the reefs, where a vast number of small holes and coral rubble give ample shelter and food possibilities for a number of invertebrates. Typically, we see redfish, cusk and common ling associated to the reefs. The great krill swarms encircling the video-rig and its floodlights are an indication that the areas visited are nutritious, and we observe large quantities of saithe supplying themselves from a well-filled “dinner plate”.

Figure 2. 3D bathymetry data showing the area with hitherto unregistered coral reefs in Sklinnadjupet as well as photos from video lines filmed during the ongoing MAREANO cruise offshore mid-Norway. Bathymetry data collected by The Norwegian Mapping Authority / MAREANO. 10 cm between the red laser dots. Video photos: MAREANO.
Figure 3. Marine litter, this time represented by a fishing longline, was observed at about 300 metres depth at the Sklinna Bank. Ironically, the bubblegum coral (Paragorgia arborea), among others, is solidly attached to the former longline. 

Sklinnadjupet and Sklinnabanken have been repeatedly shaped by ice age glaciers (Figure 4). Sklinnadjupet is a trough up to 485 m deep where fast moving ice has strongly eroded the sediments. Its seafloor is more than 300 m deeper than Sklinnabanken. In some areas, the fast-moving ice eroded the seafloor down to the underlying bedrock, exposing bedrock ridges where coral reefs nowadays thrive (Figure 2). Mud and sandy mud deposit in the deepest areas of Sklinnadjupet where the depth favors fine-grained sediment deposition.

Conversely, slower moving ice on top of Sklinnabanken, deposited sediments ranging from fine-grained clay to large cobbles and boulders (till). Strong bottom currents have eroded, and still erode, the fine-grained sediments at the surface of this shallow bank (as shallow as 125 m depth), leaving behind a coarse-grained lag deposit (coarse sand,gravel and stones) (Figure 4). The ice has also deposited moraine ridges, which are arcuate features formed from till during the ice retreat. In the deeper area, the moraine ridges are often covered, or partly covered, by recent fine-grained sediments like mud and sand. But in the shallower areas, very little sedimentation covered the gravel and stones forming part of the ridges, giving good living conditions for species which need a hard substrate, e.g. coral reefs and sponges.

Figure 4. Bathymetry data at Sklinnadjupet and Sklinnabanken  as well as photos from video lines filmed during the ongoing MAREANO cruise offshore mid-Norway. Bathymetry data collected by The Norwegian Mapping Authority / MAREANO. 10 cm between the red laser dots. White lines: G.O. Sars route. Video photos: MAREANO.



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Børge Holte

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