Moon and tide

Last night a great orange moon rose between Nugent rock and the Meyer Islands. What followed was a bright evening and a ‘Full moon celebration’ aboard the Braveheart. Kina, Tam and Lindsey from the Natural History New Zealand team also went ashore to meet the ‘Raoulians’ (Department of Conservation staff stationed on Raoul Island) and shot the full moon, sunrise, and some of the islands lush interior forests. The full moon also had a few consequences for our work the next day.

Raoul forest

The NHNZ crew spent the day on New Zealand’s most tropical island filming lush native forests, including the endemic Kermadec Nikau palms.

First, when we reviewed the night’s urchin cam video footage, the species of urchin, which we’ve affectionately called the lamington urchin due to it’s colour and short white spines, that is usually grazes only during daylight hours, continued to buzz about after dark. The moonlight was evidently bright enough to mimic daylight for this little urchin. The full moon light didn’t perturb the other urchin species however. The more nocturnal urchin, woke up and got moving as per usual, despite the particularly bright night.

The full moon action continued during the day. The apparently calm, surface waters to the west Meyer Islands, hid the roaring current that lay beneath. Full moons mean large tides and strong tidal currents. We hopped in and hung on; it was an intense dive, but a very enjoyable one. Large predatory fish, such as kingfish and sharks love current. We came across the largest and busiest specimens so far on this trip. In the company of these big pelagics the science team went about their work: Dave persuing corals, Tom gathering algal specimens, Sam noting sponges, and Phil and I surveying urchins, seastars and XXL sea snails.

The afternoon brought a change of location and a change of activity. The last dive of the day involved a rotenone station at Boat cove. As always the nature of rotenone – a powerful fish analgesic that allows us to sample cryptic fishes hiding deep within the caves and crannies of the reef – triggered a cascade of predatory action. Sharks, kingfish and grouper busily zoomed around the divers filling their bellies with groggy fish. The predatory action of the sharks was quite a buzz for Sam who had not seen a shark before this trip to the Kermadecs. The rotenone station also surfaced one confirmed new record for the Islands (the blotcheye soldierfish) and a number of possible new records yet to be confirmed.

Blotcheye soldierfish

Blotcheye soldierfish captured at the afternoon rotenone station. This is the first time this species has been recorded at the Kermadec Islands.

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