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 (Madeir-Tores Rise)




Marine ferromanganese deposits - a major resource of E-tech elements (MarineE-tech)

Seafloor ferromanganese oxides represent the most important yet least explored resource of ‘E-tech’ elements on the planet. These polymetallic deposits form a continuum from nodules rich in manganese and cobalt to crusts rich in tellurium and the heavy rare earth elements (HREE) (Hein et al., 2003). It is this combination of traditional (base) metals and the extreme enrichment of ‘E-tech’ elements that makes seafloor ferromanganese oxide deposits particularly interesting to both science and society. A recent estimate of the global resource, based on the sparse data available, infers a dry mass of ferromanganese crusts on the seafloor of 35 x 109 tonnes (35GT). Of this, 3.7 GT is predicted in the Indian Ocean, 8 GT in the Atlantic, and 23 GT in the Pacific (Halbach 1984).

At a global scale, the processes controlling the formation and distribution of Fe-Mn deposits are reasonably well understood. Much of this knowledge, however, is drawn from sparse sampling across wide ocean basins. As a result, there remains a fundamental gap in understanding of the role of local-scale factors, such as micro-topography, ocean currents and upwelling, sedimentation rates, micro-organisms, water mass composition and biological productivity, that are considered crucial to controlling the growth and composition of Fe-Mn deposits. Indeed, quantitative information for these processes and their relative importance in deposit formation is almost completely absent. Hence, to make any significant advance in understanding these deposits requires new and fundamental research.

During October to December this year, we will undertake a multi-disciplinary research programme that combines geology, geophysics, geochemistry, hydrography and microbiology to understand the local controls on ferromanganese oxide deposits at a seamount and micro-basin scale. Or study focuses on the Tropic Seamount (north-east Atlantic) and Rio Grande Rise and adjacent basins (south-west Atlantic). In addition, we will explore the environmental impacts of ore extraction and novel low-carbon approaches to the recovery of E-tech elements.

Expedition JC142 will depart and return to Tenerife in the Canary Islands. While at the Tropic Seamount, we will deploy the autonomous underwater vehicle 'Autosub 6000', and the remotely operated vehicle 'ISIS' to map and sample ferromanganese crusts across this 50km wide gyot. The gyot (a flat-topped seamount) rises some 3km from the abyssal plain where it forms a plateaux at a depth of ~1100m. Here, the conditions over the past 20 million years have led to the growth of ferromanganese-rich crusts.

Autosub6000 is NOC's deep-diving autonomous underwater vehicle, famous for its discovery of the deepest hydrothermal vents know on Earth in the Caribbean at a depth of 5000m. It will carry a number of sensors including sidescan and swath bathymetry sonar and bottom photography to map crusts and sessile biology. ISIS is NOC's deep-diving ROV and will deploy a core drill to sample over 100 sites for manganese crusts. In addition, we will deploy hydrographic moorings to map Taylor Columns and other turbulence fields caused by the seamount, and a benthic lander to monitor sediment plumes generated by the ROV to simulate seafloor mining disturbance. We will also deploy HyBIS (NOC's versatile robotic underwater vehicle) to deliver payloads and conduct surveys and collect samples from the Rio Grande Rise.

The MArineE-tech project and expedition JC142 involves partners from NOC, BGS, University of Southampton, HR Wallingford, Gardline Marine Environmental Surveys Ltd., the Spanish Geological Survey and the University of São Paulo, Brazil (funded through the science funding agency FAPESP).

For more information, please click here

RRS Discovery

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

Jez Evans

Scientific Verification Period

North Atlantic



November/December 2016

DY059 - Piston Coring Trials

During this element it is intended to conduct a variety of deployments of the Piston Coring System utilising the Bullhorn overboard gantry.

It is also the intention to commission the Ifremer Cinema Piston Corer Modelling System.

The LEBUS General Purpose Containerised Winch fitted with the Nexans Synthetic rope will be used to conduct full ocean depth (6000M+) samples.

This period will also provide an ideal opportunity for less experienced sea going technicians to receive a full course of on the job training by more senior collegues.

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)


DTG: 021216 10:15
Zone: Z
Subj:  PIM DY059

Pos: 23 53N  021 23W 
Spd: Nil
Wx:  W force 2-3. Part cloudy, occasional showers. Low sea and swell.

Status:  Coring trials completed yesterday. Currently undertaking trials and training for GP contingency winch

Intentions: Continue with trails and training on GP contingency winch. Trials to conclude Saturday evening

Fuel ROB: 347mt


DTG: 021216 0800
Time Zone: UTC

Position: 23° 55'N 020° 46'W
Course: N/A
Speed: 0kts
Wind: W 10 kts
Sea: Low sea and swell
Status: ROV dive
Intentions: Continue ROV and AUV deployments for next 24hrs

FO ROB: 329t


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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