Research expeditions

At any one time scientists and technicians from the UK community can be at sea on numerous vessels. Discover where they are and what they are trying to achieve.

Latest expedition

RRS James Cook

Cruise Principal Scientist & Institution Location Duration in days (begins) Aim

Veerle Huvenne

National Oceanography Centre, Southampton


North-east Atlantic Ocean


August 2015

Complex Deep-sea Environments: Mapping habitat heterogeneity As Proxy for biodiversity

Expedition JC125 is part of the ERC Starting Grant project CODEMAP (COmplex Deep-sea Environments: Mapping habitat heterogeneity As Proxy for biodiversity, Grant No 258482), and has affinities with the NERC MAREMAP programme. It will focus on the Whittard Canyon, a large submarine canyon system along the Celtic Margin, south-west of Ireland and the UK.

Submarine Canyons are the main transport pathways between the shelf and the deep sea, and are often considered biodiversity hotspots. Their irregular topography can create specific oceanographic effects that result in enhanced primary productivity, which then gets transported to deeper waters through the canyon. At the same time, the steep canyon walls and enhanced sediment dynamics create a wide range of seabed substrates, providing different niches for a large variety in faunal communities.

However, studying these communities and the underlying processes is a major challenge in this complex terrain. Whittard Canyon has several sections with near-vertical or overhanging walls, which cannot be studied using traditional ‘over-the-side’ scientific equipment. Using the MARS vehicles (ROV Isis and AUV Autosub6000), we will be able to obtain a correct picture of these environments, mapped and quantified in true 3D. After an initial test in Whittard Canyon in 2009, using the ROV Isis, we are now developing a new methodology to carry out further sideways mapping of the canyon walls, using Autosub6000.

Hence, the aims of the cruise are:

  • To carry out further habitat mapping at different resolutions in Whittard Canyon, to increase our understanding of the system and to test the predictive habitat models built within CODEMAP using the 2009 data
  • To test and apply further sideways multibeam mapping, in order to develop a true 3D habitat model of the canyon
  • To revisit key habitats in the canyon in order to establish potential changes over the last 6 years.

Further information can be viewed here and here

Cruise blog here

RRS Discovery

Cruise Principal Scientist & Institution Location Duration in days (begins) Aim
Henry Ruhl
National Oceanography Centre, Southampton
Celtic Sea


August 2015

Shelf Sea Biogeochemistry  

The aim of the NERC Shelf Sea Biogeochemistry research programme is to take a holistic approach to the cycling of nutrients and carbon, and the controls on primary and secondary production in UK and European Shelf Seas, and to increase understanding of these processes and their role in wider biogeochemical cycles.

Of the 4 main work packages this cruise is will mainly focus on Work package 2 (Biogeochemistry, macronutrient and carbon cycling in the benthic layer) and Work package 3 (The Supply of Iron from Shelf Sediments to the Ocean), but with facets of the CANDYFLOSS Pelagic Work package. All Work packages contribute to the overall Integrated modelling effort of Work package 4.

This mainly benthic focussed cruise, DY034, will include the use of benthic lander systems, Autosub6000, benthic trawl equipment, benthic flumes, CTD water column sampling, wire deployed sensors and various sediment coring systems.

This cruise is the last of a series four cruses which have used this suite of tools to examine how our shelf seas process carbon at the seafloor, and will be the last of nine UK Shelf Seas programme cruises on NERC vessels. Because it’s the last of the cruises we also expect to recover a substantial amount of automated marine observatory equipment that has been deployed continuously since the first Shelf Sea Biogeochemistry research programme cruise that began in March 2014. 

Further information can be found here
Cruise blog here
Facebook page here
Twitter page here


Ship position

This map shows the positions of the NOC operated vessels RRS Discovery and RRS James Cook.  While every effort is made to keep this map up to date sometimes postion updates are not possible.

Update from the ship (PIM)


DTG: 030915 08:00

Zone: Z+1

Subj: PIM


Position: SST, Berth 26/27, Southampton


Wx: NW 6kts. Overcast and Clear. Sheltered Waters

Status: Alongside preparing for refit

         Demob DY034 completed yesterday

Intentions: ETD Fri 04-SEP-15 16:00


DTG: 030915 0700

Zone: GMT


Cruise: JC124/5/6


Position: 48 28.3N 009 39.4W

Co:  Autopos

Spd: Autopos


Weather: NNW x 16, Slt Sea and Swell, Fine and clear

Status: Preparing to launch ROV. Over night completed a serious of Piston and Mega Cores

Intentions: ROV and AUV operations to PSO requirements

Other expeditions


Learn about the research expeditions that are taking place upon the NOC based research vessels during 2014. Read more about 2014's expeditions


Learn about the research expeditions that are taking place upon the NOC based research vessels during 2013. Read more about 2013's expeditions


Learn about the research expeditions that took place upon the NOC based research vessels during 2012. Read more about 2012's expeditions

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