Journey of the Lanternfish Hunt in Cold Waterhttp://www.uwphoto.no
When I first started to look for the Glacier Lanternfish (Benthosema glaciale), I had an analog camera, so it has to bee at least 8 years ago. I did some investigation and talked with some scientists, and they told me it would come close to the surface during night to feed on Northern Krill and other small animals. But, they said, it has to be at least 300 meters deep where you dive. Finding a fjord that is more than 300 meters deep in this area, is not very difficult, so we started doing pelagic night dives in the middle of fjords where we had more than 300 meters of water below us. What we did was that we used å huge buoy, 30-40 meters rope and a heavy weight in the end. We jumped off the boat which followed the buoy, and hang on the rope for approximate an hour looking for Lanternfish and other pelagic creatures. The most challenging tasks were not to loose the white rope when an exciting photo motive showed up, and not to loose the camera. The last part we solved using a rope connecting the camera to the diver.
￼It is very exciting to glide through the water like this, and we found the lanternfish, quite a lot actually. There was just one minor problem. Every time we pointed at them with our light, they went straight downwards where no diver could follow. So we ended up with quite a heap of images of other pelagic creatures like sea gooseberries bristleworms etc. but no Lanternfish.
It is both quite challenging and resource-demanding to do this type of dive, so we more or less stopped doing them and went back to do night dives from the shore inside the fjords during the winter.
18 February 2009 Leif and I did a shore dive inside Hogsfjord just 75 minutes drive from Stavanger. We were looking for small sharks like Spiny Dogfish, Black-mouthed Dogfish and Velvet Belly sharks, so I had my 35 mm lens on the camera. I had just captured some images of a hagfish when I spotted a small shiny fish swimming for the deep. I recognized it as a Lanternfish and swam after it while I pointed with the camera trying to get an image. At 50 meters depth I had to turn the dive while the fish was going down like a flat iron. However, I had managed to capture one image of the fish and was very happy. The next 4 weeks we did 4 dives on the spot and met Lanternfish and Mueller's Pearlside on every dive. Despite the fact that the fishes showed up, we did not manage to capture any images of the Lanternfish and only poor images of Mueller's Pearlside. Then the spring came and we had to stop doing these dive, but Leif and I had a plan for the winter 2009/2010.
The winter came and nearly every Wednesday I drove for an hour, took the ferry across the fjord and drove some more to meet Leif and look for the Lanternfish. The whole winter we did not see neither Lanternfishes nor Mueller's Pearlsides. We met a lot of Black-mouthed Dogfishes but the most exciting thing that happened that winter, was at our dive when the air temperature was 18 degrees centigrade below the freezing point and we thought we had to wear the diving gear and dry suit until the spring, since everything froze and we could barely manage to get our gear and suit off.
During the summer 2010 I thought we maybe should change our strategy next winter, but I could not figure out what that could be, so in November 2010, we was back in the fjord looking for this strange and beautiful fish.
We did many dives without seeing anything. It seemed that even the hag-fishes had left the spot and I started to doubt if we ever should get our images.
February 23, we were ready for a new dive. The weather was not good.
The gale came from South-East and 4 degrees centigrade below the freezing point gave us very cold fingers setting up the gear. The waves were coming straight out the fjord, but we had a little bay where we could get in to the water without being hit too much by the 1-1.5 meters high waves. The week before, I had drowned my main light, so I had just a small one, and was not to optimistic regarding spotting a Lanterfish.
We had decided to dive a bit deeper than we usually do. At 43 meters we stopped the descent and followed the slope eastwards.
We very quick found a large starry skate and a hagfish came visiting us. They are quite good swim-mers, but when you point your light on them, they tend to get confused and usually try to dig down or hide. I got a good feeling when the hagfish came along. We were going shallower as our computers were getting into decom-pression and at 33 meters I suddenly saw a Lanternfish above Leifs head. I flashed Leif to notify him that something was going on, and then swam so I got between the fish and deeper water. It is not easy to focus on a small, fast moving, shiny fish in the free water, but as I managed to get it in focus I fire the strobes. The fish swam up the slope towards the surface. It soon got quite chaotic. Sometimes the fish swam into mud clouds we had made with our fins and all the time it tried to get past us to deeper water. Leif had problems with his flashes and just managed one shot, but he supported me spotting the fish and keeping it at shallow water. When we reached 15 meters, the Lanternfish took off towards the surface. Leif stayed at the bottom pointing his light upwards while I was following the fish. We both ended in the surface where the gale made big waves. I almost lost my camera, it was impossible to photograph and as I was afraid of getting blown out on deep water, I decided to dive down to Leif and let the fish alone. Nothing much happened the rest of the dive, and soon we could wade through the breaking waves and in to dry land. We were very excited about the fish and we could see that I had got a lot of nice images of the fish. Leif single shot had also produced a nice image........ What a thrill it had been!
The spring is soon here and in a couple of weeks the days are too long to do night dives in the middle of the week, but we have to think carefully about what we should aim for next winter.