Day 1 – Marine Fieldwork
07:00am – After picking up an obligatory round of much needed coffees, 4EI and Nautica begin preparations for surveying as part of our exciting new EAD Habitat Mapping project (https://www.ead.gov.ae/en). Ensuring we have a clear plan of the day, with back ups will be essential to the success of our busy day.
08:21am – Having checked our weather vitals, fresh faced and suitably H&S prepped, our 4EI Production Manager David Hamersley prepares for survey by smiling, as Nautica’s Rebekka Pentti and Oliver Farrell, are busy diligently undertaking vessel and survey preparations.
09:00am – Just 10 minutes into the survey, we spot our first sign of wildlife. A juvenile Indian Ocean Humpback Dolphin (Sousa plumbea) surfacing, on closer inspection we estimate that there is a pod of roughly 6. Attracted by shallow warm waters, coral reefs and mangrove channel availability, Abu Dhabi presents a perfect habitat for them to thrive.
In our excitement, we were regrettably too caught in the moment and forgot to take photos.
9:30am – We get to our first point and the team springs into action. Rebekka and Ollie talk us through the equipment to view and record the seafloor and we are assigned to help out with jobs. We are talked through the Secchi depth instrument to measure turbidity and watch it descend into the clear waters.
11:40 AM – After some time scouting around to complete survey sites, we are shadowed by flocks of curious Socotra Cormorants (Phalacrocorax nigrogularis). Endemic to the Arabian Gulf region, they get their name from the first ever recorded sighting being off the coast of Socotra, Yemen.
13:30 PM – After parking up at an Island for lunch, we get back on the open sea to search out areas where we suspect areas of Coral reef and seagrass are, courtesy of Oliver and Rebekka’s extensive local knowledge.
14:40 PM – After spotting the tell tale signs of a diverse seabed from the presence of a nearby traditional Hadra fishing trap we strike lucky on a seagrass bed. The water is so clear, the Nautica team are able to show us the tell tale signs of the 3 different species that we expect to see here: Halodule uninervis, Halophila stipulacea and Halophila ovalis. Rebekka talks us through the different physiological characteristics, as well as where they should be expected to be seen.
14:59 PM – We finally locate some coral patch reef! There is visible excitement on the boat as we lower our transect frame once again, and everybody crowds around the live feed whilst we get a comprehensive explanation of what we are seeing. Small patches of hard corals, such as Playtygyra daedalea and Cyphastrea microphthalma are seen from the boat at the shallow site. Abu Dhabi’s corals are resilient and have been known to withstand large annual temperature fluctuations and to see them in the Abu Dhabi Emirate is an event to be excited about!
16:00 PM – After a busy day, it is finally time to hang up our hi-vis, leave the lifejackets, berth the boat and head home. However not before we are treated to glassy waters overlooking the Abu Dhabi skyline, and a surprise find of a reconstructed whale bone structure at the marina. Rebekka tells us more about whale species in the area, as we try to hypothesise what sort of whale remains we are viewing.
16:30 PM – Unwillingly, we alight the boat and help to collect and clean all the equipment placing them back in their boxes. We had a great time today, though at approximately 34 degrees in February it does make you appreciate just how tough a challenge the extreme environments the Nautica team has to face.
We thank the Nautica team again for a fabulous(ly) educational day out on their rib and look forward to future trips to learn more about the important marine environments present in the Gulf. Once again, we had a great time on the boat with you. Hopefully, it won’t be too long before we can get out again, you’re always welcome to join.