Arctica gold in the Faroes

GO Sars PB2

GO Sars waits in Bergen before beginning the ARAMACC cruise to the Faroes. Picture: Paul Butler

We left Bergen at 17:00 Saturday 8th Nov, and took a 36 hour transit to first station (the seas reasonably calm considering the time of year), arriving at our first collection site off the SE of the Faroes at about 5am Monday 10th Nov.

10th November: With sauna, solarium and gym, GO Sars is a well equipped ship.  I’m not sure how much time we’ll have to use them though, since all the scientists will spend 12 hours of each day collecting and processing shells (and some are having to spend time in their rooms “acclimatizing” to life at sea).  For the past 24 hours we have been working off the SE side of the Faroes, at a grid of sites where Arctica has been collected before.  Here, we’ve collected a fair number of dead shells and a few live specimens, and also some shells from animals that died more recently (articulated shells* – these are cases where the two valves are still attached even though there is no animal inside them).  Most of the dead shells are of uncertain date; experience of other sites suggests that they could have lived anything from a few hundred to a few thousand years ago.  They are generally in good condition, however, and may easily contribute to a long chronology.

Shovelling Arctica NW2

Rob Witbaard (left) and Juan Estrella shovel a pile of shells – mostly dead Arctica valves – that have just been dredged from a site off the SW Faroes. Picture: Nina Whitney

Morning of 11th November: Switching the following night to a site off the SW of the islands, we struck dead Arctica gold.  The four dredges we hauled (for six minutes each) were brimful with shell material, nearly all of it single Arctica valves.  All told we may have collected 5,000 shells in these four dredges, suggesting that the sea floor in this area is covered in these shells.  Live material was less abundant (there may be a number of reasons for our not collecting live animals as efficiently as we might have, including the effectiveness of the dredge, or the possibility that at this time of the year many animals may burrow further into the sediment), but we did retrieve thirty or so live animals, and also a large number of articulated pairs, which can generally be assumed to be very recently dead*.





*This is important for chronology construction.  Shells from live collected animals with a known date of death can be used to anchor the chronology, while the articulated shells can be assumed from their condition to have died very   recently and should easily crossmatch with the live specimens.