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

Carol Cotterill

British Geological Survey

Mid Atlantic Ridge 



October 2015

International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) Expedition 357 - Atlantis Massif Seafloor Processes: Serpentinisation and Life
IODP Expedition 357  will address two exciting discoveries in mid-ocean ridge research: off-axis, serpentinite-hosted hydrothermal activity, exemplified by the Lost City Hydrothermal Field (LCHF) on the Atlantis Massif oceanic core complex (30°N, Mid-Atlantic Ridge); and the significance of tectono-magmatic processes in forming and exposing heterogeneous mafic and variably serpentinized ultramafic lithosphere that are key components of slow and ultraslow spreading ridges. Serpentinization is a fundamental process that controls rheology and geophysical properties of the oceanic lithosphere and has major consequences for heat flux, geochemical cycles and microbial activity in a wide variety of environments. However, we currently have no constraints on the nature and distribution of microbial communities in ultramafic subsurface environments.
The proposed drilling focuses on: 
1. exploring the extent and activity of the subsurface biosphere in young ultramafic and mafic seafloor;
2. assessing how abiotic and biotic processes change with aging of the lithosphere and with variations in rock type;
3. quantifying the role of serpentinization in driving hydrothermal systems, and in sustaining microbiological communities, and in the sequestration of carbon in ultramafic rocks; and
4. characterizing tectono-magmatic processes that lead to lithospheric heterogeneities and the evolution of hydrothermal activity associated with detachment faulting.
This expedition will utilize seabed rock drill technology (MeBo and BGS Seafloor Rockdrill 2) to core a series of shallow (50-80 mbsf) holes across the Atlantis Massif, where detachment faulting exposes both mafic and ultramafic lithologies on the seafloor. We aim to recover in-situ sequences of sediments, hydrothermal deposits/veins, and basement rocks that comprise a broad zone of detachment faulting across: a spreading-parallel (E-W) profile along the southern wall and at varying distances from the LCHF; and a ridge-parallel (N-S) profile into the center of the massif, where the dominant rock compositions changes from ultramafic to gabbroic. Drilling the E-W profile will allow us to evaluate how microbial communities evolve with variations in hydrothermal activity and with age of emplacement on the seafloor. 
We aim to compare microbial activity and diversity in areas of diffuse H2-rich fluid flow and carbonate precipitation with communities in areas away from the active hydrothermal system and with variable substrates and crustal ages. By quantifying the extent and evolution of carbonate precipitation, we will evaluate the potential for natural CO2 sequestration in serpentinizing peridotites. Drilling the N-S profile will allow us to evaluate how faulting and lithospheric heterogeneities influence hydrothermal alteration and the nature of the deep biosphere in varying lithologies; and to assess the role of the differing rheologies of gabbros and serpentinized ultramafic rocks in localizing detachment faults.
Further information can be found here and here and here

RRS Discovery

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

Darren Rayner

National Oceanography Centre, Southampton

Sub-tropical North Atlantic



October 2015

RAPID-AMOC MOC-OBS System and ABC Fluxes Observations
Since April 2004, researchers have developed and maintained an observing system for the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) at 26.5N under the Rapid Climate Change programme , the Rapid WATCH programme and now the Rapid AMOC programme. These programmes investigate how the changes in the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) will affect us globally. 
The overall intention during this expedition is to service the RAPID-MOC 26N moorings. The MOC is the most important dynamical quantity to determine ocean transports of heat, freshwater, carbon, and other properties, and is central to all considerations of rapid climate change and the role of the thermohaline circulation.
In addition to redeploying the normal array of instruments we shall be adding biogeochemical sensors as part of the ABC Fluxes project, which aims to calculate time series of inorganic carbon and nutrient fluxes in the Atlantic at 26.5°N.
We shall also be deploying a recently developed telemetry system for the transmission of subsea moored instrument data to shore at regular intervals throughout the 18-month deployment period, and servicing the NOG mooring near the mid-Atlantic ridge.
Further information can be found here and here.
The RAPID Challenge blog can be accessed 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: 241115 11:00

Zone: Z -4

Subj: PIM DY039


Pos: 26 29N  076 37W

V/L on DP in vicinity of WBH2


Wx: NE force 6/7, Broken cloud, Mod/ rough sea and mod swell


Status:  WB4 lander redeployed yesterday morning, followed by transit to and recovery of WBH2. Overnight CTD, followed by redeployment of WBH2 this morning.

Intentions: Recovery and redeployment of WB2L9 lander this afternoon followed by recovery and redeployment of WBADCP.

Other: Deterioration of weather expected in the next 12 hours.


DTG: 241115 0800

Zone: GMT-2


Cruise: JC130


Position: 30 07.5N 042 05.7W

Co: DP Autopos

Spd: DP Autopos


Weather: Sly x 24 Kts, Mod sea and Slt swell, Overcast and raining

Status: 23/1500 Mebo recovered. Vessel repositioned to AM02A, 23/1800

RD2 Deployed.

Intentions: Continue with Drill ops

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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All updated information for cruise participants can be found using the Marine Facilities Planning website: