(Text, Photos: Eleni Kytinou)
I am Eleni Kytinou, a Greek marine biologist invited to join this expedition mainly for diving support of the research. At the same time I am starting my PhD, focused on marine food webs. The first part of our trip is just completed, after spending five wonderful days in the underwater world of this South Atlantic Island.
The terrestrial part of this very special volcanic island is quite dry, steep and with little indigenous vegetation but the landscape is completely different when you have a look under the sea surface. At first sight underwater, there was so much action taking place out there, that you couldn’t decide where to focus on.
The visibility was poorer than in the oligotrophic eastern Mediterranean, where I’ve done most of my research and there were strong currents.
Great abundances of fish grazing in groups, and the biggest abundances of groupers (apex predators that play a very important role in the ecosystem function) ever seen in my life…
The islands hosts the second biggest population of green turtles (Chelonia mydas) in the entire Atlantic during the nesting period, in the peak of which we were able to make our research visit. When they come to land to nest, they create typical traces along the whole beach:
During many dives we encountered green turtles. During some snorkeling close to their main nesting sand beach (Long Beach, north of Georgetown) we were surrounded by five of these wonderful animals. They examined us thoroughly and swam away...
We also recorded some very interesting rhodolith beds, which are a typical feature of Ascension’s infralittoral:
During our night dives we encountered many moray eels (apex predators), lobsters, but also Galapagos sharks.