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:     220218 08:50
Zone:   Z-3
Exped: DY087

Subj:    PIM

Pos:  50 14S 043 02W


Course: 081

Speed: 4.1kts


WX:  Variable Force 2-3, few clouds, fine and clear, slight sea and low swell


Status: Final core completed in the early hours. Vessel currently deploying seismic gear for final survey


Intentions: Continue with seismic survey until 1200/ 25th.


Other: MOB boat launched for crew training yesterday morning     

Vessel: James Cook

DTG: 220218 0945
Time Zone: UTC-3


0700: Pre-arrival checks complete, SBE

0802: POB (Toste)

0830: Swinging of Berth

0903: FLA

0927: Pilot away

0924: All fast, FWE, Vessel secured to Shed No7 Berth, Rio De Janeiro 


FO: 156t

Commence Preps for Mobilisation and VIP Visits



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

Alessandro Tagliabue

University of Liverpool

Subtropical North Atlantic

43 days

The impact of mid-ocean ridges on the ocean's iron cycle - FRIDGE

Mid-ocean ridges are significant sources of iron to the ocean due to hydrothermal activity, with dramatic iron plumes that persist for thousands of km away from the ridge.

The impact of hydrothermal iron on the ocean carbon cycle depends both on the longevity of the iron plumes and the mixing of iron into surface waters, with both aspects poorly constrained.

Thus our understanding of how the ocean iron cycle functions is incomplete. This is important as the influence of ocean biology on ocean-atmosphere carbon dioxide exchanges via the biological pump is controlled by iron availability over large parts of the ocean.

Our cruise will document the changes in iron supply, cycling and speciation along the diverse hydrothermal systems of the northern Mid Atlantic Ridge. We will link observational science with state of the art ocean modelling to assess the global influence of mid ocean ridges on the ocean iron cycle and the sustenance of surface productivity. This cruise is also a UK contribution to the international GEOTRACES programme and is designated as an approved section GA-13.

Further information can be found here  and here 

Twitter - @FRidge_GA13 and  @ RachelAnnMills

RRS Discovery

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

Steve Bohaty

University of Southampton 

Eastern Falkland Plateau region  45 days 

Climate and Oceanographic Evolution of the Southwest Atlantic


The Southwest Atlantic is an important region in the modern ocean for dispersal of deep waters. Deep components of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC), the largest current system on Earth, pass through narrow bathymetric conduits in the northern Scotia Sea, which either flow northward over the eastern end of the Falkland Plateau (Maurice Ewing Bank and Georgia Basin) or continue within the eastward flow of the ACC. The path of the ACC in this region greatly influences the position of surface frontal systems, across which there are strong temperature, salinity, and nutrient gradients. The complex bathymetry of the Scotia Sea, Falkland Plateau, and Georgia Basin in the Southwest Atlantic also controls the path of cold, saline deep waters formed in the southern Weddell Sea, which flow northwards into the Argentine Basin through several narrow abyssal passageways.

The primary aim of DY087 is to investigate the geological history of the Southwest Atlantic through seismic reflection and piston coring operations, which will be used to both image and sample the sedimentary rock layers that record the history of climate and circulation changes in this area. Seismic and coring datasets collected on the cruise will contribute valuable new insight on deep-water sedimentary processes and the long-term history of drift sedimentation and bottom-current erosion associated with deep-water circulation in the Southwest Atlantic. The results of DY087, in combination with a future cruise led by AWI-Bremerhaven in Germany, will also be used as the basis for a new drilling proposal for the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP). New IODP drillcore records from this region will be used to test long-standing hypotheses regarding the role of atmospheric carbon dioxide versus the initiation of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current in the onset of Cenozoic cooling and development of large polar ice sheets.


DY087 will operate in the eastern Falkland Plateau region of the subantarctic southwest Atlantic Ocean, focused on the Maurice Ewing Bank (MEB), West Georgia Basin (WGB), and Northeast Georgia Rise (NEGR). New multi-channel seismic reflection data will be collected across this study area to image the sedimentary rock layers at high resolution and identify target sites for IODP drilling. Also, since ancient rock layers crop out near the sea floor around the periphery of the MEB, we will also map and date these rock strata through collection of piston cores.

The primary objectives of DY087 will be to:

  1. Collect new seismic reflection profiles over the MEB, WGB, and NEGR, in order to understand the processes and patterns of sedimentation in these areas and identify expanded sedimentary successions.
  2. Collect and analyse piston cores along newly collected seismic lines to identify locations with the most continuous geological successions, appropriate geological ages, and sediment lithologies suitable for multi-proxy palaeoceanographic investigations.
  3. Assess potential IODP drill sites while underway and collect seismic reflection crossing lines at suitable localities, fulfilling IODP seismic data requirements for site selection and safety.
  4. Collect short multicores, multibeam bathymetry, and acoustic sub-bottom profiler data at potential drillsites to characterise the surface sediments.
  5. Correlate new seismic reflection and piston core age data to existing scientific drillcores to inform seismo-stratigraphic interpretations and refine drilling targets and science objectives for an IODP proposal.
  6. Investigate physical properties and mixing in the modern ocean through collection of water-column temperature and salinity profiles and analysis of seismic data (seismic oceanography).

The science team sailing on DY087 will be composed of researchers from Univ. of Southampton, British Antarctic Survey, Univ. of Exeter, Univ. of Birmingham, Univ. of Cardiff, Padova University (Italy), and the Univ. of Nebraska (USA), with combined expertise in marine geology, geophysics, and oceanography.

Expedition updates and blog postings can be found here, and Pip the Penguin will be reporting from the Discovery on Twitter here and here 


Previous and Upcoming Expeditions

Learn about the previous research expeditions that have been undertaken.