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


Exped: DY089
DTG: 180518 08:00

Time Zone: UTC +2

WX: Light airs, broken cloud and mist, sheltered waters

Position: 22° 52'S 014° 31'E
V/L stopped on DP in Walvis Bay anchorage number 1

Status: V/L delayed, awaiting availability of berth
Intentions: Current berthing prospects ~ 2100/ 18th


Other: MOB boat launched and run yesterday







James Cook

DTG: 240518 0700L
Time Zone: UTC

Subj: JC165

Position: 48 50.3N 016 31.4W

Course: DP Autopos
Speed: DP Autopos
Wind/WX: NNW x 23 Kts

Sea: Slt/Mod Sea with a confused swell


Status: Setting up for a Hybis deployment. Yesterday recovered the top end and sensor package of the PAP ODAS buoy. Carried out one deep CTD and two mega cores.


Intentions: COnduct a Hybis dive followed by Mega Coring

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

Henry Ruhl 

National Oceanography Centre

Northeast Atlantic 24 days

Biogeochemistry and ecosystems research at the PAP - Sustained Observatory

This cruise supports the sustained observatory at the PAP site and continues the observations of the oceanography at this location in the subpolar gyre and the processes which occur there. A crucial part of the cruise is to recover the moorings which comprise the observatory and which were deployed in June 2015 and to deploy a new set of moorings.

In addition to this, scientists from across Europe who have expertise in water column and benthic biology and biogeochemistry will make observations which complement the data obtained by the observatory and which cannot be made autonomously such as rate processes (e.g., primary production, zooplankton feeling etc.) and sampling that cannot be done autonomously. This will include seafloor photographic transecting, benthic trawling and sediment coring.

Further information can be found at here and here


RRS Discovery

Cruise Principal scientist & institution Location Duration in days (begins) Aim
DY090 Stephanie Henson

National Oceanography Centre 

South Georgia

South Atlantic Ocean

36 days

Controls over Ocean Mesopelagic Interior Carbon Storage - COMICS

The surface ocean is home to billions of microscopic plants called phytoplankton which produce organic matter in the surface ocean using sunlight and carbon dioxide.  When they die they sink, taking this carbon into the deep ocean, where it is stored on timescales of hundreds to thousands of years, which helps keep our climate the way it is today.

The size of the effect they have on our climate is linked to how deep they sink before they dissolve - the deeper they sink, the more carbon is stored.  This sinking carbon also provides food to the animals living in the ocean's deep, dark 'twilight zone'.

Computer models can help us predict how future changes in greenhouse gas emissions might change this ocean carbon store.  Current models however struggle with making these predictions.  This is partly because until recently we haven't even been able to answer the basic question 'Is there enough food for all the animals living in the twilight zone?'.  But in a breakthrough this year we used new technology and new theory to show that there is indeed enough food. 

So now we can move on to asking what controls how deep the carbon sinks. There are lots of factors which might affect how deep the material sinks but at the moment we can't be sure which ones are important.  We think that two important ones are the amount of surface biomass and the amount of oxygen inside the ocean.

In this project we will make oceanographic expeditions to two different places where only these factors vary to test how these different factors affect carbon storage in the deep ocean.

DY086 was the first of those expeditions and this is the second DY090.  On both expeditions we will measure the carbon sinking into the twilight zone and the biological processes going on within it.

Then we will determine if the systems are balanced - in other words, what goes in, should come out again.   We will then write equations linking all the parts of the system together and analyse them to make them more simple.

At the same time we will test whether the simple equations are still useful by seeing if they produce good global maps of ocean properties for which we have lots of data.

Finally, when we are happy that our new equations are doing a good job we will use them in a computer model to predict the future store of carbon in the ocean and how it will change as the ocean warms.

Further information can be found here


Previous and Upcoming Expeditions

Learn about the previous research expeditions that have been undertaken.