Islands in the Stream Expedition
South Atlantic Bight Mission
Savannah Scarp Leg
Sept. 5-9, 2001
Aboard the R/V Seward Johnson II and Submersible Clelia

Dr. Leslie Sautter
Dept. of Geology and Environmental Geosciences
College of Charleston
Charleston, South Carolina

Wednesday, Sept. 5 - 2300 hrs
It's great to be back at sea. This is a beautiful and comfortable vessel with about 40 people on board, half of whom are scientists. We boarded the R/V Seward Johnson II (Fig. 1) at 2000 hrs in Ft. Pierce, FL after a long and tiring van ride from Charleston. Drs. George Sedberry and Jack McGovern of the SC DNR, Josh Loefer (DNR research assistant) and Jill Jennings (grad student) accompany me. We are taking part in a leg of the NOAA Islands in the Stream Expedition (Fig. 2) which began in Belize this past summer and has made a circuitous journey along the path of the surface currents that eventually lead to and become the Gulf Stream. The last several legs of the expedition focus on areas within the South Atlantic Bight (Fig. 3) - a coastal margin region that stretches from Cape Hatteras, North Carolina to Cape Canaveral, Florida. Here, the Gulf Stream transports its warm, tropical waters northward, hugging the edge of the southeastern U.S. continental shelf (Fig. 4).
On our mission we will explore the undersea "island" of life that occurs along the edge of the continental shelf, 70 miles east southeast of Savannah, Georgia. This location, known as the Savannah Scarp (Fig. 5), is about 200 feet deep and is known by fishermen as a location providing habitat to many commercially important species of demersal (or, bottom-dwelling) fish, such as gag grouper and scamp. These and other fish are found to inhabit areas often referred to as either "hardground" or "live-bottom." Hardground indicates that the seafloor is exposed, solid, rock instead of being covered with loose sediment, or grains of sand and silt. They are "live-bottom" because many invertebrate organisms such as sponges, bryozoa and coral require a hard, immobile surface on which to attach and grow. The result is that a small reef community of sessile organisms can inhabit hardgrounds, attracting fish and other mobile organisms. The purpose of our cruise is to see first-hand these live-bottom communities and to compare and contrast them with other hardground/live-bottom reefs along the South Atlantic Bight coastal margin.
After stowing gear, and receiving a brief introduction to the science party and overview of the mission, we settled into our berths. Thunder shook the ship and the lightning flashed through our porthole, making my new, temporary home somewhat surreal.

on to Thursday

Fig. 1

Fig. 2

Fig. 3

Fig. 4

Fig. 5