Also out on the water that morning, tending his traps in a forty-foot lobster boat, was Jack Merrill, an Islesford lobsterman who, like Bruce Fernald, has been in the business for nearly thirty years. Merrill is gruff, bearded, and thoughtful, and has dedicated much of his life to making lobstermen themselves the lobster's best advocate. To that end he, too, regularly collaborates with Steneck and other researchers. When Merrill caught sight of the Connecticut in the distance, he changed course and headed toward it. Twenty minutes later he throttled down and drew up under the Connecticut's looming bow.
As Merrill pulled alongside, he was met by technicians carrying walkie-talkies and wearing orange flotation vests. Steneck emerged on deck, hailed Merrill, and pulled a notebook from his breast pocket. Merrill produced a notebook of his own and read off a few numbers to the scientist—numbers he would not have shared with his fellow lobstermen. This was one of his many small contributions to the quest for a better scientific understanding of lobsters. "That's where I've seen them," Merrill said. "Big ones, big time."
He then took the wheel of his boat and roared off across the sparkling water, back to his traps. Steneck climbed a steep stairway to the bridge, where he proceeded to map out the coordinates Merrill had given him on a nautical chart. He nodded. "Two rock outcrops," he said. "Little underwater mountains. Just where you'd expect to find big lobsters."
Later in the morning, when the Connecticut was in position and Steneck was on his third cup of coffee, the ROV was put into the water. In the command module on the Connecticut the P3S2's pilot, along with a copilot, Steneck, and one of Steneck's research assistants, monitored a bank of luminescent screens and instruments. The room echoed with sonar pings. Off to one side, with a video monitor of his own, sat the State of Maine's chief lobster biologist, Carl Wilson, a former student of Steneck's.
The pilot steered the ROV toward the bottom with a pair of joy sticks. On the video monitors a rain of plankton gave way to a lunar landscape of pebble fields and small boulders. P3S2 was hovering at a depth of 104 feet. Its spotlights and three video cameras illuminated tall sea anemones growing on the rocks like stalks of broccoli. Fish darted around mussels, scallops, and the occasional starfish.
"This looks like a high-rent district," Steneck said. Steneck's research assistant switched on the video recorder and noted time and depth on a clipboard. Moments later a lobster antenna became visible.
"There's one," Steneck said. "He's hiding between those two boulders."
The pilot pressed his joy stick for a slow-motion dive. P3S2 nudged the boulder, and the lobster's antenna twitched. The pilot pulled the ROV back, and the lobster emerged, strutting forward, claws extended and antennae whipping the water. If he had been able to see the ROV, the lobster might have been unnerved—but despite the fact that they are endowed with some 20,000 eye facets, lobsters have terrible vision. They have sensitive touch receptors, however, and an acute sense of smell. Two long antennae and thousands of tiny hairs on their claws and legs give them ample information about their environment. Like houseflies, lobsters can even taste with their feet. A second pair of shorter antennae, known as antennules, contain 400 chemoreceptors and give lobsters most of their hunting and socializing skills. But P3S2 didn't emit a recognizable scent.