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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

RV Celtic Explorer Newfoundland & Labrador Fishery Survey: DAY 31

Date 1/03/2011 Time: 23:00 hrs (UTC)

Position:   48 01.79 N   47 24.16 W  

Wind speed 40 knots SW, seas 5-6 m

After almost a day of calmer seas – the most we have this trip – we are back in moderate sea states with SW winds ripping across the Grand Banks. We are now near the infamous Flemish Cap, or Bonnet Flamande, as it may have been named by early French fishermen. How the name came about is still in doubt, but the form of this most eastward extension of the Grand Banks does resemble a cap or bonnet.

The Bonnet is also the furthest eastward extension of the continental shelf of North America, and millions of years ago before the opening of the North Atlantic was joined to Spain and North Africa. Ancient fossils found on the eastern shores of Newfoundland are the same as those in Morocco! But it was the rocks of western Newfoundland that inspired Newfoundland geologist Hank Williams to provide unequivocal evidence of the theory of plate tectonics and continental drift in the North Atlantic. And still the drift goes on. Newfoundland and the Grand Banks, with the Flemish Cap its trailing edge, moving doggedly westward at a speed of about 1 cm per year.

The Flemish Cap became infamous in the movie ‘The Perfect Storm’, as supposedly Captain Linda Greenlaw on the vessel Hannah Boden screamed to Billy on the doomed vessel Andrea Gail - ‘The Flemish Cap’, then ‘Billy, you are going into Hell’.

The Great Big Seas (in the singular also a Newfoundland music group) off the Flemish Cap (Photo: Laura Wheeland)

Everything is beautiful, in its own way, goes the song…

Crabs are often used as models for alien creatures in horror or adventure films – made much larger of course. And surely if crabs were very large they would be formidable and frightening creatures. Fortunately for us they are not. Around the fishing world, crab is considered a delicacy and the North Atlantic and Newfoundland and Labrador are no exception. The Snow Crab is by far the most important crab species here. Male Snow Crabs are much larger than females and go through several moults of their shell during their lifetime. Only males are taken in the commercial fishery (thought to be a natural form of conservation). Since the decline of Atlantic cod, Snow Crab has been the mainstay of the Newfoundland and Labrador fishery.

The face only another Snow Crab (Chionocetes opilio) could love (also known as Queen Crab). (Photo: Kate Barley)

Tonight will be last night of the survey. Tomorrow we head for St. John’s and a quick demobilization before the Celtic Explorer refuels and heads back across the Grand Banks and to Cork, Ireland, where the trip began in January.

We will try to post a final blog tomorrow evening.

Blog by Kate Barley and George Rose.


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