I’ve caught them!!!! I’ve caught them!!! I have flipping caught them!!!! This is amazing!! I’ve caught fish larvae!!!! Unbelievable!! I caught them, and they are beautiful! Way more than I thought they’d be…. This is amazing….
But perhaps I should start at the beginning… This morning the Pharos was about to sail off to go do the fish larvae trawling exercise that they do every month to assess the fish larvae density. They do so with plankton nets that they deploy down to about 100m of depth and by the time the larvae are up on deck, they are rather squished and no use for me. As the Pharos was going out there, I thought that perhaps I could give it a shot at deploying traps off the Pharos, just to see if I could catch something. After discussions with the Government Officers, I realised that there was pretty much no point in me going aboard, as the ship would not be stopping anywhere deep enough for any length of time. So I gave up on the idea… And then, to make things worse, I was informed that I had my departure date in late September…. I already knew that that was when I was supposed to leave, but seeing the date so close kind off freaked me out. And then a huge feeling of failure started getting hold of me. I had tried…. I had tried and failed… miserably… I got even gloomier than I had been for the last week. I tried to shake it all off by planning some further offshore “deep” traps. I modified them once again, adding more flotation to each trap (Suggestion by GO Jo!) to make lifting the whole line a little bit easier. So I added more weight to the base of each trap to make sure they sank properly, and added a whole lot of polystyrene to the top. Then after I had them nearly ready I was told that the boating trip I was planning to take advantage off was cancelled…. Hummmpffff….. So I did what I needed to do… Call home base (AKA boss) for confirmation that it was okay to get some more boating hours and some much needed moral support. It’s funny but after that call I felt completely renewed…. And I was ready for more … Be it success or failure. So I booked the boat for myself to go out and deploy anyway, regardless of other people or weather, I was gonna “poner toda la carne en el asador“. Two lines with four jellyfish traps of 60m and 40m of depth. This time, deployments were as smooth as silk and we were done in less than 40 minutes. I had originally thought of putting out the four bubble traps out off the pier while Pharos was out, but then, decided to give the spotlight a try… It was a wild card, there were reports of larvae being caught by hand of the jetty back in the 90’s, though everyone so far had laughed at the idea. And I had been told so many times that it was so difficult to catch them, that I had not given this method serious thought. GRAVE MISTAKE!!! VERY VERY GRAVE MISTAKE!!! So I found a floodlight, and at dusk I placed it just off the pier and then went for dinner, after an hour I dragged myself to the pier ready to retrieve the lamp and face defeat once again. Surely enough the sea was heaving with critters moving around, the usual suspects: amphipods, polychaetes, isopods, the odd shrimp…. Sigh….. The same as always….. But then something crossed that didn’t move like an amphipod, or a polychaete, or a shrimp… No, this thing was definitely swaying a tail side to side… Nah… Could it? Nah…. Impossible, and then another one…. Wait a second, I need to check this. I ran as quickly as I could in the two foot deep snow to fetch an improvised long-handle soft mesh hand net and fished out that wiggling thing. Off into a bucket. And there it was! My first fish larvae!!! This time there was no doubt about it. I had caught a fish larvae!!! 30 minutes later I had dozen of them of at least three different species!!! One of them had the most beautiful dragon fins! Stunning creatures!!!
Now I had a problem… What do I do with these?? Off I went running again to the main house, and Dan very kindly offered to help. First I showed him my capture, which he confirmed, reassuring me that I wasn’t inventing stuff, or I was starting to lose the plot. Then we went off on a frantic search for somewhere to overnight the larvae until I had the aquarium ready. I must admit I was rather unprepared for this. Needed somewhere at 0oC. The aquarium room was too warm without the chillers on, outside was too cold… Hummmm… Joe and Ernie were quick thinkers and suggested either the food store (1oC was close enough), or making a mesh bucket and floating it till tomorrow. 20 minutes later we had our bucket, but sadly when we came back, the surface of my original bucket with fish larvae had started to freeze and half my larvae were already belly up…. The wind had picked up and the water in the bucket was now -4oC…. A first Antarctic fish husbandry lesson has been learned, as you’re catching the larvae, the water needs to be kept warm enough. Or the larvae need to be transferred straight away to the aquarium. I have already thought of several ways to solve the problem (floating buckets and polystyrene boxes will come handy).
I am a bit disappointed with myself for not having done this before… I should have done it earlier regardless of opinions… but, hey, I found a way to catch the larvae.
It’s now 1am, and tomorrow I have to start the aquarium. I was tired before I went down to the pier, but now I am buzzing with excitement about the prospect of starting the aquarium. I am curious to see it there is anything in my deep water traps. And I can’t wait to set up the lights again tomorrow eve. Perhaps my luck just changed…. 🙂