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:   220517 11:25
Zone:   GMT

Exped: DY078/ 79
Subj:    PIM 

Pos: 57 56N 021 05W
V/L on DP

Wx: Variable force 3/4, Part cloudy, fine and clear. Slight sea and moderate, v confused swell - V/L in centre of low pressure system

Status: 2x gliders deployed yesterday afternoon. Currently undertaking final CTD of additional OSNAP Transect. 

Intentions: On completion of CTD (delayed due to scrolling issues), proceed to NW for glider recovery. On completion transit back to main Ellett line for resumption of transect at station IB6

Vessel: James Cook
Research Expedition ID: JC149 Leg 3
DTG: 220517 0700L
Time Zone: UTC -4

Position: 15 51.7N 059 31.1W
Co: 252T
Spd: 3.5Kts
Wx: E x 18Kts
Sea: Slt sea and low swell

Status: Completed Shoot at 22/0600L. In the process of recovering Gun array and Streamer

Intentions: On completion of recovery of array and streamer vessel will then recover 48 OBS's and 1 x mooring

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

David Smeed

National Oceanography Centre, Southampton

North Atlantic



(February 2017)

The RAPID 26°N program

There is a northward transport of heat throughout the Atlantic, reaching a maximum of 1.3PW (25% of the combined atmosphere-ocean global heat flux) around 26°N. The heat transport is a balance of the northward flowing warm Gulf Stream, and southward flowing cold North Atlantic Deep Water. Together these are known as the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC). Variations in the AMOC have important impacts on the climate of the Atlantic and surrounding regions.

Since 2004 the RAPID program has been continuously monitoring the AMOC and associated northward heat transport at 26°N. The time series of the AMOC produced by the RAPID program is freely available from here and is widely used by ocean and climate scientists around the world.

There are three components to the AMOC. Firstly monitoring of the AMOC at 26°N is facilitated because the Gulf Stream transport is confined to the Florida Strait where it is measured using a subsea cable. A second part of the AMOC is the shallow wind driven transport, referred to as the Ekman flow. This is measured by satellite scatterometers. The third part is ‘mid-ocean’ circulation from the Florida Strait to the coast of Africa and this flow is monitored by the RAPID team at the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton. An array of moored instruments take measurements of temperature, salinity and currents across the Atlantic. Once every 18 months the array is serviced. Instruments are recovered and serviced and the data downloaded before the moorings are deployed again.

Recently oxygen and biogeochemical sensors have been added to the array as part of the ABC project. The North Atlantic is thought to be accumulating human carbon emissions faster than anywhere else in the ocean and the ABC project aims to quantify the variability of the transport of carbon dioxide by the overturning circulation.


RRS Discovery

Cruise Principal scientist & institution Location Duration in days (begins) Aim
DY072 Nick Harmon

National Oceanography Centre, Southampton

North Atlantic



(March 2017)

DY072 – Passive Imaging of the Lithosphere-Athenosphere Boundary (PiLAB)

Plate tectonics has been a fundamental tenet of Earth Science for nearly 50 years, but fundamental questions remain, such as where is the base of the plate and what makes a plate, "plate-like?" A better understanding of the transition from the rigid lithospheric plate to the weaker mantle beneath has important implications for the driving forces of plate tectonics, natural hazards, and climate change.

The Passive Imaging of the Lithosphere-Asthenosphere Boundary (PILAB) Experiment led by Catherine Rychert aims to understand the nature of the base of the tectonic plate. We will systematically image the entire length of an oceanic plate, from its birth at the Mid Atlantic Ridge to its oldest formation on the African margin. This is a large-scale focused effort with multiple scales of resolution and sensitivity, from a metre to kilometre scale using seismic and electromagnetic methods. This scale, focus, and interdisciplinary approach will finally determine the processes and properties that make a plate strong and define it.

In March 2015, on a previous cruise, 39 broadband ocean bottom seismometers (BOBS) and 39 ocean bottom electromagnetic instruments (OBEM) were deployed in the equatorial Mid Atlantic to record for one year. The dense seismic and EM array will achieve the imaging goals of the study. DY072 is the recovery cruise for these instruments and will continue marine geophysical mapping of the area.

Further information on this expedition can be found at here and here


Previous and Upcoming Expeditions

Learn about the previous research expeditions that have been undertaken.