Stage one on the verge of completion

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Mohammed Qol - 02/11/2012 - written by Steven Kessel

The last few days have been very productive both from the standpoint of tagging mantas and deploying receivers. Yesterday Nige led a team to tag the final three mantas that would fill our quota. He was joined by Joey and Sparky and they were very successful, tagging all three including a second all black manta of the trip. That is 22 mantas tagged in total, with a combined 20 acoustic tags and 6 satellite tags. It was cause for mini celebration as that it represented the completion of one of our fieldwork objectives. Mini celebration sounds more glamorous than it really is as, due to the lack of access to libations here, they basically just consist of hi-fives and hugs. Still, definitely worth being happy about.

Yesterday Cam and I continued the monitor deployment. It went even better than the day before as we managed to get all eight sand anchors in and some of the sites had very interesting fauna. It always seems that by the time you get to the end of setting up a mooring, you have a big audience of reef fish. I think that they are more interested in the sediment we kick up than the wonderful job we do on the mooring, but it is nice to at least feel like your work is appreciated.

Graham and Ben heading out in with the third fisherman who’s boat we had rented to conduct plankton tows. We need to find out want these mantas are feeding on. Their day went really well and they got all but one site done. The reason for falling short became apparent to us on the way home. Cam, Mahmood, Mohammed Younis and I were on our way back from the monitor deployments, Mahmood spotted something in the distance, it was someone waving a t-shirt on a long bamboo pole from a small boat, it was Graham, Ben and their driver. As we pulled up their boat Graham was leaning over the engine pointing to the lower unit, there was no propeller, it had fallen off. This was karma as the day before they were joking to Joey and Sparky that they would break down when using that boat. It lasted for Joey and Sparky, but not for them. We towed them home and all was well.

Today was again productive; Nige, Claudio, Sparky and I went with Mahmood to finish the monitor and range test tag deployments. All went well and we are happy to say that our full Dungonab acoustic array is now established. Graham, Ben, Joey and Cam heading out to conduct some more plankton tows where the mantas were feeding and take some genetic biopsies. They were also very successful despite a small issue with a hole in the bottom of their boat. Tomorrow we are finishing up loose ends. We want to collect a few more genetic samples and maybe even treat ourselves to a pleasure snorkel with the mantas. Then it is off to Port Sudan for the second leg of the research trip….the offshore reefs.

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