Dive 04: Unnamed mound in EB 1009
April 17, 2018
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Dive 04: Twisted Squid

Described by our resident cephalopod expert as “probably the most bizarre squid I’ve ever seen,” we encountered this unusual squid while exploring an unnamed mound at a depth of ~850 meters (2,790 feet) during Dive 04. Its arms were folded back in what may be a defensive posture, but to such an extreme degree, it had lost its squid-like appearance. Video courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, Gulf of Mexico 2018. Download larger version (mp4, 37.9 MB).

Dive 04 targeted an unnamed mound in East Breaks (EB) 1009, an area of the Gulf of Mexico that had never before been explored using deep-sea submersibles. The closest historical dive to the site was a single 2009 survey that autonomous underwater vehicle Sentry conducted over 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) to the north. Remotely operated vehicle Deep Discoverer (D2) reached the bottom on a heavily sedimented, flat area at ~895 meters (~2,935 feet) deep. Transiting west, D2 moved up the flank of a ridge covered with fine-grained sediment, abundant excavation burrows, and isolated sediment ripples suggesting current flow. At the upper extent of the ridge at ~850 meters (~2,790 feet), D2 moved upslope towards the peak of an adjacent mound. The sediment became coarser, sometimes with angular gravel to cobble sized clasts, until D2 came upon tan to brown, weathered sedimentary rocks free of sediment cover. Toward the top of the mound, fractured, blocky, dark gray to black rocks were observed that may have been fractured asphalt. At the summit, there was fully exposed sedimentary rock substrate. The dive ended with D2 moving west toward an adjacent peak.

Commonly observed animals included hake (Merluccius albidus), blind lobster (Acanthacaris caeca), shrimp (Cerataspis sp.), red crab (Chaceon quinquedens), and squat lobster (Galacantha spinosa). Other animals observed included several species of squid (including Ornituthis antillarum, Echinotheutis atlantica, and one as yet unidentified), cusk eels (Dicrolene sp.), rattails (Gadomus longfilis), cutthroat eels (Synapobranchus spp.), conger eels (Conger spp.), dragon fish (Manducus maderensis), cardinal fish (Epigonus sp.), grenadiers (Nezumia sp.), brotula (Diplacanthopoma sp.), sea urchin (Echinus sp.), giant isopod (Bathynomus giganteus), cup corals, as well as several species of sponges, sea cucumbers (holothurians), and comb jellies (ctenophores). There was a very grumpy looking goosefish (Lophiodes beroe) as well. Towards the end of the dive, on the rocky substrate, D2 recorded three small cnidarian colonies, including the stony coral Lophelia pertusa, a stolonieferan ocotcoral, and a corallimorph.