Research Expeditions

Research Expeditions

At any one time scientists and technicians from the UK marine community can be at sea on numerous vessels. This page provides information on the current research expeditions being undertaken by our two Royal Research Ships Discovery and James Cook. Here you can discover where our ships are and what they are aiming to achieve.


Updates from the ships’ Plans of Intended Movement (PIM)


RRS Discovery RRS James Cook

Vessel: Discovery


DTG:  180119 09:00

Zone:  Z -2

Exped:  DY098

Subj:  PIM

 Pos:  54 17S 036 26W

Co:  Var            

Spd:  0-2 knots

WX:  Various F4-6. Slight sea. O’cast with snow showers.

Status:  Trials of nets and mooring equipment in Cumberland Bay.

Intention:  Remain at KEP until JCR returns.


Vessel:  James Cook


a: SST, Puerto Arinaga

b: Routine tasks and maintenance ongoing


Wx: N f4. Clear and dry

Ships’ positions

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.


MARS Portal


Latest Expeditions

RRS James Cook

Cruise Principal scientist & institution Location Duration in days (begins) Aim




Ulf Riebesell 

GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel


Northeast Atlantic,

off Gran Canaria


10 days 



5 days

Ocean artificial upwelling (ERC project Ocean artUp)

The two cruise legs (JC171 & JC173) support the experimental field campaign of the ERC project Ocean Artificial Upwelling (Ocean atUp). The project aims to examine the potential of forced upwelling in raising ocean productivity and enhancing fish production. This year’s campaign will investigate the relationship of upwelling intensity with trophic transfer efficiency and export efficiency for a range of upwelling strengths and two different upwelling modes (pulsed vs. continuous) using the KOSMOS seagoing mesocosm facility.

RRS James Cook (JC171) will deploy the moorings and the experimental platform and assist – jointly with the KOSMOS divers and technical team - in gearing up the mesocosms. The ship will further deploy the large-volume (100 m3) collector to obtain nutrient-rich deep water and tow the filled collector to the experimental site. Once the experimental platform is up and running, the study will be carried out independently with small boats operating out of Taliarte habour.

The GEOMAR-led mesocosm campaign involves 48 scientists from 8 countries and will last from October 11 to December 15, 2018.

After completion of the mesocosm campaign RRS James Cook (JC173) will recover the mesocosms and the moorings and will return the seagoing equipment to Las Palmas harbour, Gran Canaria.

Further information about the Ocean artUp project can be found here

RRS Discovery

Cruise Principal scientist & institution Location Duration in days (begins) Aim

Sophie Fielding 

British Antarctic Survey

South Georgia

25 days

Polar Ocean Ecosystem Time Series – Western Core Box

Cruise DY098 is the 23rd occupation of the Polar Ocean Ecosystem Time Series Western Core Box (POETS-WCB). The main deliverable of the POETS-WCB is a consistent unique time series of mesoscale distribution and abundance of Antarctic krill and an understanding of their physical environment within the region of South Georgia, South Atlantic (1996 – current). These data are required to understand the long-term variability in krill biomass at South Georgia and the influences from climatic variability, fishing pressure and predation.

South Georgia is an area of high regional biodiversity, supporting large numbers of endemic and range-edge species. The pelagic ecosystem in this region is extremely productive with intense phytoplankton blooms supporting a rich food web that includes zooplankton, in particular large densities of Antarctic krill, and vertebrate predators (penguins, seals and whales).

The British Antarctic Survey (BAS) have undertaken cruises to monitor krill biomass as part of the ongoing assessment of the status of the marine ecosystem in the south-west Atlantic sector of the Southern Ocean. In addition to an annual acoustic assessment of krill in an area to the north-west of South Georgia called the Western Core Box (WCB), BAS maintains moorings both on the South Georgia shelf and in the open ocean region of the Scotia Sea. The open ocean sustained observations in the area are carried out as part of the SCOOBIES (SCotia sea Open-Ocean BIological laboratoriES) programme, a NERC National Capability Science (Single) funding (NC-SS) project with a primary purpose to consider the flux of carbon to deep ocean layers as well as monitoring ocean chemistry parameters, particular in relation to ocean acidification. This moored instrumentation complements the WCB surveys by providing year round temporal sampling of environmental conditions and acoustic backscatter. 

The cruise consists of the following:

POETS - WCB survey

1. Acoustic survey during daylight hours using multi-frequency (38, 70, 120 & 200 kHz) Simrad EK60 echosounder. Two transects to be run each day during a four day period.

2. Regular deployments of XBTs (Expendable bathythermographs) along transects during day.

3. Deployment of the CTD at minimum of two stations per night during survey.

4. Continuous operation of underway data logging system (bathymetry, location, sea surface temperature, sea currents, etc.).

5. Net sampling (RMT8 and other zooplankton/micronekton nets) at night-time stations plus target fishing during both night and day to ground-truth acoustic data.

6. Acoustic calibration using standard sphere techniques will be undertaken in one of the deep-water harbours on the North coast of South Georgia (Stromness Harbour is the preferred location).

7. Recover WCB mooring. Download data, refurbish and replace batteries. Redeploy mooring.

POETS – SCOOBIES (SCotia sea Open-Ocean BIological laboratoriES)

Mooring recovery, refurbishment and redeployment

1. Recover two deep-water moorings (SW and NW of South Georgia). Download data, refurbish and replace batteries. Redeploy moorings during cruise.

2. Net sampling (RMT8, MOCNESS and other zooplankton nets) over 24 hour periods at mooring stations.

There are berths available for collaborative projects that can be undertaken within the existing sampling schedule. Funding for these can be sought from the Collaborative Antarctic Science Scheme


Previous and Upcoming Expeditions

Learn about the previous research expeditions that have been undertaken.