Geoscience Australia and the Australian Antarctic Division conducted a benthic community survey using underwater still photographs on the shelf around the Mertz Glacier region. The purpose of the work was to collect high resolution still photographs of the seafloor across the shelf to address three main objectives:
to investigate benthic community composition in the area previously covered by ... the Mertz Glacier tongue and to the east, an area previously covered by fast ice
to investigate benthic community composition (or lack thereof) in areas of known iceberg scours
to investigate the lateral extent of cold water coral communities in canyons along the shelf break.
Benthic photos were captured using a Canon EOS 20D SLR 8 megapixel stills camera fitted with a Canon EF 35mm f1.4 L USM lens in a 2500m rated flat port anodised aluminium housing. Two Canon 580EX Speedlight strobes were housed in 6000m rated stainless steel housings with hemispherical acrylic domes. The camera and strobes were powered with a 28V 2.5Ah cyclone SLA battery pack fitted in the camera housing and connected using Brantner Wetconn series underwater connectors. The results were obtained with 100 ASA and a flash compensation value of +2/3 of a stop. The focus was set manually to 7m and the image was typically exposed at f2.8 and a shutter speed of 1/60 sec. The interval between photos was set to 10 or 15 seconds.
The camera was fitted to either the CTD frame or the beam trawl frame and lowered to approximately 4-5 m from the bottom. The camera was deployed at 93 stations, 7 using the beam trawl frame and 86 using the CTD frame.
The stations were named by:
Camera deployment frame (e.g. CTD or beam trawl, BT)
Frame sequence number (e.g. CTD53)
Instrument (e.g. camera = CAM)
Sequence of camera deployments through the survey overall (e.g. first deployment = CAM01, second deployment = CAM02 etc).
For example, BT5_CAM16 is the sixteenth camera deployment of the survey overall, and was the fifth deployment using the beam trawl frame.
From the 93 stations, there were 75 successful camera deployments. There were no photos captured at 9 stations. This was due to the camera or strobes malfunctioning, the camera being too far from the bottom, or the camera or strobes being in the mud at the bottom. The photos at a further 9 stations are considered poor due to the camera being out of focus, the camera being a little too far from the bottom or because very few photos were captured of the bottom.
The benthic photo will be used to document the fauna and communities associated with representative habitats in the study area. The post-cruise analysis of the benthic photos will involve recording seabed geology and biology (class or order, and whatever is significant for the habitat) for each image