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
Bramley Murton 
National Oceanography Centre, Southampton

North Atlantic




July / August

Breakthrough Solutions for the Sustainable Exploration and Extraction of Deep Sea Mineral Resources

The Blue Mining project is an ambitious €12M international programme to study processes of formation and preservation of seafloor mineral deposits, and evaluate their resource potential and recovery.

During July and August of 2016, Cruise JC138, on the RRS James Cook, will sail to the Mid-Atlantic Ridge to study a series of seafloor massive sulphide deposits that were formed by hydrothermal activity at a depth of 3500m below sea-level.

The cruise, led by Blue Mining project leader Bramley Murton from the National Oceanography Centre, will immediately follow a five week-long site survey cruise on the R/V Meteor by our German partners at the research centre Geomar based in Kiel, using autonomous underwater vehicles and near bottom seismic studies.

The RRS James Cook cruise will deploy novel geophysical tools such as active source electromagnetics to get a three-dimensional image of the deposit sub-surface, as well as the robotic underwater vehicle HyBIS to map and sample the seafloor.

The majority of the cruise time will be used deploying a robotic sea-floor drilling rig, the RD2, developed by our project partners at the British Geological Survey. The six ton drilling rig will be lowered to the seafloor to a depth of 3500m where it will drill and recover 50m long cores through the ore deposits, acquire in situ measurements of the sub-seafloor rocks and their properties, and sample fluids from deep within the bore hole.

The data and samples will be analysed to understand the processes of formation, evolution and preservation of hydrothermal mineral deposits on and below the seafloor.

Blue Mining project partners include German, Portuguese, Dutch and Belgian colleagues and will run for four years.

Further information on the Blue Mining project can be found here.

RRS Discovery

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

Penny Holliday

National Oceanography Centre, Southampton

Subpolar North Atlantic





The UK Overturning in the Subpolar North Atlantic Program (UK-OSNAP)

UK-OSNAP is a large project which aims to generate new knowledge and understanding of the North Atlantic Subpolar Gyre and its wider impacts on climate. The project duration is five years and it began on 1st September 2013. It entails activities in ocean measurement, modeling of the ocean and climate, and the analysis of results, requiring significant skills in those fields. Accordingly we assembled a team of experts from around the UK: from the National Oceanography Centre's two sites in Southampton and Liverpool, from the Scottish Association for Marine Science in Oban, from the Physics and Earth Sciences Departments of the University of Oxford, and from the Department of Earth, Ocean and Ecological Sciences of the University of Liverpool.

There is mounting evidence from measurements and models of the importance of the transports of heat and freshwater by the North Atlantic Subpolar Gyre (SPG) for impacts on North Atlantic, European and global climate via temperature, precipitation and wind strength, and also on marine ecosystems, hurricanes, even rainfall in the Sahel, the Amazon and parts of the US. The SPG behaves substantially differently from the Subtropical Gyre, and their mechanisms and timescales for transport and storage of heat and freshwater are very different. The SPG is inadequately measured, and no ocean general circulation or climate model represents it accurately. UK-OSNAP aims to generate new knowledge and understanding of the SPG, to improve predictions of the contribution of the SPG to climate. We are conducting a programme of sustained observation of SPG circulation and fluxes, coupled with the modelling and analysis required to deliver enhanced understanding of processes critical to the improvement of model physics and (ultimately) to the improvement of climate models. UK-OSNAP will form part of an international SPG measurement project, leveraging additional national and international investment in excess of £25M.

The outputs from UK-OSNAP are designed to benefit decadal and seasonal forecasters – particularly at the UK Met. Office and UK, European and international climate modellers. We aim to inform and influence international and domestic climate policy and decision makers through the reduction of the uncertainty of seasonal, decadal and longer-term model forecasts. These ultimately contribute to increasingly reliable projections of future climate, thereby underpinning mitigation and adaptation strategies.  New understanding of environmental variability is highly valuable to organisations that provide advice for maintaining healthy and productive seas.  Combination of OSNAP results with data from other locations will aid detection of any large-scale change in the system that may be underway, or evolve, in the coming years, likely to influence regional climate and require modified adaptation and mitigation policies to those currently in place

This cruise is completing work for the international and UK components of OSNAP. The purpose is to recover and redeploy the Netherlands moorings in the eastern Irminger Sea( Dr Laura de Steur, NIOZ) and UK moorings in the western Irminger Sea (Dr Penny Holliday, NOC). Standard CTD-LADCP sections will be occupied and routine shipboard observations of underway meteorology, sea-surface properties and ocean currents will be monitored.

Further information about the OSNAP program can be found here and 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 position updates are not possible.

Update from the ship (PIM)


Vessel: Discovery

DTG: 250816  15:15

Zone: Z+1

Subj: Hull Arrival Report DY055

Pos: SST MMS Shipyard Repair Berth, Alexandra Dock.

Wx: Lt Var. Overcast with light rain. Sheltered waters.

0830 SBE. Ancors clear and pre-arrival checks complete

0938 POB

1216 Enter Alexandra Dock Lock

1242 Exit Alexandra Dock Lock

1255 1st line ashore

1307 All fast F&A. FWE. Pilot away.

Fuel ROB: 204t


Vessel: James Cook

DTG: 250816 0700

Time Zone: UTC+1

Position: SST, Queen's Wharf, Falmouth

Status: Demobilisation of JC138 equipment, refit preperations


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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Principal scientists

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