CD 157: Investigating the submarine canyons off Portugal


 


Question time!

We received a huge number of questions for the team! The ship is now on its way back to port and so question time is now over. Scroll down to read the answers to your questions...

Q

David Haynes, from Wyvern Technology College asked:

Dear Mr Lewis, please can you tel me how deep the sea is were you are now?

A

Hi David

The depth at this particular spot which is 39o47' and 10o46', is 4221m according to the 10Mhz sounder. This is shallower than some places where we have been but deeper than others. The deepest location was over 5000m. Imagine a journey of just over 3 miles!

Ian Lewis


Q

Christie and Kelly asked:

Have you found anything interesting in the sea while you were there? What sort of food have you been eating? Would you normally eat the sort of food you've been eating while at sea?

A

Hello Christie and Kelly

We have found loads of interesting things. Prof. Phil Weaver as showing me how the sediments can tell you about the ice ages, seismic disturbances and the types of life present in those times. Its interesting watching the night life at the top of the sea, swimming crabs, sand eels and squids all swimming about.
I have been eating much more than I would normally which is a worry as I have done little in the way of exercise. The food is very good; strawberries for breakfast, steaks, sole , fresh fruit, salads – anything you want.

Ian Lewis


Q

Danny, aged 46, from Belgium asked:

I know you have someone flemish overthere that can translate for you...welke invloed heeft de canyon op de biologie op die plaats?

A

Hi Danny

I could try to answer in Flemish but  who would I be fooling? Our sample locations in the canyons that we are studying are between 3500m and 5000m so we would not expect to find any plant life at those depths. Even if you went to shallower sections, they are still beyond the reach of sunlight so plants cannot grow. This does not mean that they are devoid of life, the sediments contain many bacteria and small Foraminifera, as well as some tube worms and other larger invertebrates. These feed on the rain of waste and dead material that sinks from the upper layers.

The canyons provide a much greater range of habitats than the flatter continental shelf or abyssal plain so the diversity of animal life is greater. Habitats include the muddy bottom, sandy bottom, gravel and rocky sides just like in a land based canyon. The flow of sediment is focussed down the canyon and this brings more food to the organism, it may also bring more pollution. Periodically, there may be avalanches which can bury or sweep away the existing sediment and the organisms that  live in it.

We have been keeping a close eye on Ruth to make sure that she is eating enough greens!

Ian Lewis and Phil Weaver


Q

Roxy from Wyvern Technology College asked:

What animals can you see and is there anthing you really like at sea or anything you really hate?

A

Hi Roxy

We've seen a large and unexpected range of animals. If you want a detailed list we have just posted one on the website : Wildlife Survey. A read of my diaries will show you that we have seen lots of whales , a few dolphins, several different bird species like Shearwaters and pigeons, plus some butterflies and moths!
I’ve always liked the sea and what it contains, I am particularly enjoying the hugely different experience and lifestyle. I haven’t hated anything, but it has been a challenge to get up at 3.30am!

Ian Lewis


Q

David Audemard and Tom Powell, aged 12 and 11, from Wyvern Technology College asked:

Have you seen any Portuguese Man of War Jellyfish?

A

Hi David and Tom,

The short answer is no, we have not seen any Portuguese Man of War Jellyfish.  We have been looking out for them as they are quite dangerous, not that we’d worry as we are in a large ship! To see them would be interesting. We have seen the remains of some unusual organism that was floating on the surface and providing food for fish. As yet, this is unidentified.

Ian Lewis

We have not seen any jellyfish although it is likely that we have missed them due to their relatively small size. The Portuguese man o war jellyfish (really a hydroid but not getting into that) has a sail shaped float on top so is blown by the wind throughout this area using its long tentacles and powerful venom (often several metres long) to catch a variety of food that is unlucky enough to bump into them. Many other jellyfish also live in this area and they have been found from the surface to great depths in the ocean.

Dan Jones


Q

Anna and Debbie, aged 15, from Wyvern Technology College asked:

Hello, how is sea life treating you? What's the most amazing and peculiar animal you have seen so far? On jack cross' question, you put 'get some of your lazy mates to send you a question' - well all of your science class did, so there! everyone is missing you, they say 'hi' ...BYE! 

A

Hello Girls

You need to read my diary from 8th June as it describes how I was lucky enough to be in a speedboat when a whale surfaced right next to us! It was a Minke whale, one of the smaller species, but it was still massive but so graceful.
Life is treating me fine, but all that will change next week! I’m glad that Jack received my answer, your questions must have been so rude that the chief censor deleted them before they polluted the airwaves [oh yes - web ed.!].

Looking forward to seeing you all.

Ian lewis


Q

Russell Taylor from Wyvern Technology College asked:

Do you know what subsea cables are near you and whether they are shark proof or not?

A

Hi Russell

There are submarine cables around here and we have to report our positions to the Portuguese authorities to enable them to give us permission to drop samplers over the side. There are maps of cable positions. Last week we were unable to sample in one spot because cables were present. We cannot guarantee avoiding them as the distance is great and we cannot see where the corer will hit the bottom precisely.

I think that they are shark proof! I don’t think that sharks would have much interest in them. Several of the seamen on board have worked on cable laying ships and  have some interesting stories.

Ian Lewis


Q

Stacey Kavanagh, aged 12, from Wyvern Technology College asked:

What has been the best part of your experience and what is your favourite sea creature that you have seen?

A

Hello Stacey

There are so many wonderful new experiences that it is hard to give a favourite. I think the best part is doing something completely different that I would not have done otherwise. This is important to me and I would recommend it to anyone. For the favourite sea creature, we have recorded everything that we have seen and I think my favourite out of these is the dolphins. Sadly, we have not seen as many as I’d have hoped, but we have seen lots of whales and even been within a few metres of one. Check out my diary from 8th June.

Ian Lewis


Q

Bethan Evans, aged 12, from Wyvern Technology College asked:

If there is no light in a ravine can organisms still live? If they can what is the greatest depth they could easily live?

A

Hi Beth,

Good question! Organisms in the waters deeper that the surface few hundred metres live in a world which is virtually without natural light. Outside of this surface layer there is no plant life. For the vast majority of the deep sea the animals rely on food falls from the surface waters to supply their food chains. This food rains down continuously but often very slowly from the shallows and during the trip to the deep seabed the majority of it gets eaten by other animals on the way down. In some cases large food falls can occur such as dead fish and even whales, there are many deep sea animals adapted as long range scavengers, continuously roaming this vast environment using their keen senses to detect these food parcels from above.

Unlike the communities here, in a few areas of the deep sea there are communities that do not rely on food from above, these have food chains based on bacteria that use chemicals to produce energy (chemosynthetic animals) such as those found in the hot vents.

If so, what is the greatest depth they could live? As talked about previously, animal life has been found all the way to the greatest depths in the ocean

Dan Jones


Q

Gemma Ralph, aged 12, from Wyvern Technology College asked:

Mr. Lewis, have you found your trip interesting so far? Have you seen any flying fish?

A

Hi Gemma

I would be amazed if anyone could not find the trip interesting, I think it has been fantastic. Even though sampling mud from 5000m deep may not sound interesting there are so many different sides to the process that anyone could get their brain involved in some aspect. The technical/engineering side, the planning phase, sea floor mapping, building up models of sea floor processes, preparing the samples and describing what they show – plus all the other things that are different about living on a ship.

I’ve seen one flying fish! This was on the way to look at some dolphins which were bow wave riding, so I didn’t stop!

Ian Lewis


Q

David Audemard and Tom Powell, aged 12 and 11, from Wyvern Technology College asked:

How far out to sea are you? (answer in metres)

A

Hello lads,

The closest we have been to shore whilst sampling is 27km which is 27000m. The most distant has been about 150km, which is about 150000m, give or take a metre or two.
Most of the time we have not been able to see any land at all. That has been very unusual for me.

Ian lewis


Q

Samuel Hiigins, aged 12, from Wyvern Technology College asked:

Have you spotted any venomous fish? And if so, which ones?

A

Hi Sam,

We have not spotted any venomous fish, unfortunately the only fish we have seen are those living in the surface waters. Generally, the deep sea fish are little studied so no-one really knows which ones are venomous.

Dan Jones


Q

Emily Goddard, aged 12, from Wyvern Technology College asked:

Hello Mr Lewis. I was wondering, have any large sea creatures ever came near your boat? Also, have you seen anything really amazing (creatures, sharks etc)? If so, please tell me!

A

Hi Emily,

You need to check out the website for a video I took whilst we had a ride in the ship’s RIB speedboat. Whilst out at sea buzzing about a whale surfaced right next to us! It circled us and re-surfaced several times, it was obviously very curious. As it was about 5 times bigger than our boat, we felt very tiny but not afraid. I think the diary entry for this is 8th June – have a look.

Ian Lewis


Q

David Audemard and Tom Powell, aged 12 and 11, from Wyvern Technology Colloge asked:

Have you gone scuba diving?

A

Hi David and Tom,

We are not allowed to go into the water from the ship so we cannot go swimming at all. Even if we could, as the water is 5000m deep the interesting part would be well beyond diving range. You’d have to be a highly qualified diver even to go beyond 10m.
This ship does not do research cruises that use diving techniques, these would need to be set up specially in smaller vessels and be in much shallower water.

Ian Lewis


Q

Matthew Yalden, aged 12, from Wyvern Technology College asked:

How many different types of fish have you seen? What are the bad points? What are the good points?

A

Hi Matthew

We have not seen many fish as we are only able to see the surface ones; sand eels are all that we have identified. The underwater camera has not been able to work due to a fault in the cable. I have seen sardines, cod, herring, tuna, salmon and sole on my dinner plate!
I’m not sure that  I  can see good or bad points about fish in general and as we have not seen many it is difficult to give a good answer. The good points about my experience is that it has all been so different and will help me with new contexts to apply teaching ideas. The bad points are getting up at 3.30am and not seeing my family for such a long time.

Ian Lewis


Q

Ann Hopewell asked:

Ian, Have you found any hot vents in the area? What sort of life forms are there if you have?

A

Hi Ann.

There are no hot vents in this area! They are not as common as the television would have you believe, the majority of the deep sea has no chemosynthetic life. We have done a wildlife survey which has informed me that there are a lot more lost birds than I thought. They use the ship as temporary resting point. Whether they survive after they fly away, who knows. We have also seen some butterflies – Painted lady, moths and hover flies. From the water we have collected very little. This part of the ocean is not rich in life. We have seen whales ghowever and this is a highlight. Have a look at the wildlife survey results to get a detailed description.

Hope work is OK, especially now that 11B have gone!

Ian (and Dan Jones for expert advice)


Q

Summer Cusack & Katie Roebuck from Wyvern Technolgoy College asked:

Hello, what is the weather like in Portugal - does it change often because of the sea? What is your favourite animal you have seen in your visit other than the Whale? Have got bitten by any insects or animals in your stay? good bye!

A

Hi Summer and Katie

We are 100km offshore of Portugal at the moment and I have been watching the dawn. As it has been getting lighter I can see that the sky is cloudy,  although it is warm enough to wear shorts and T shirt. The last few days have started like this and then become hot and sunny, I hope the same will happen today. I think the sea stabilises the weather but it can experience  different types of weather just like on land. Mostly it depends on temperature differences which cause winds, rain and then storms. We have not experienced any storms although the first few days had rough seas.
My favourite animal other than the whale has to be the dolphins, they are so active and agile in the water.
I have not been bitten by any animals, there are very few out here. Most people would be surprised at the lack of life in the sea, remember that it is huge. Very few airborne animals can fly this far, most that do are either migrating or are lost.

Ian Lewis


Q

Hannah, Hazel and Sarah from Wyvern technology College asked:

Hello,
We were wondering wether you could answer the following questions:
When do dolphins sleep? Have you seen any giant jelly fish? How did you get chosen to go to Portugal? Have you been seasick? Are there any sting-rays?

A

Hello Girls,

Nice of you to ask a question, thank you.

Dolphins have to regularly surface and breate therefore it is unlikely that they will sleep like you and I. I cannot find anything about sleep patterns but I would guess that they have periods of relaxation and periods of activity.

We have not seen any jellyfish although it is likely that we have missed them due to their relatively small size. The Portuguese man o war jellyfish (really a hydroid but not getting into that) has a sail shaped float on top so is blown by the wind throughout this area using its long tentacles and powerful venom (often several metres long) to catch a variety of food that is unlucky enough to bump into them. Many other jellyfish also live in this area and they have been found from the surface to great depths in the ocean.

I am fortunate in that I was not seasick, although I did feel a bit queasy for the first day. If you are sea sick, you know it. Some people were in bed for three days.

I was chosen from people who applied for the chance. I had to write a letter outlining my reasons and I made suggestions about how I would get involved. I then had an interview at SOC and was fortunate enough to be successful.

I haven’t seen any sting rays but we do have a copy of the video! I’m near the end now so I’ll see you next week.

Ian Lewis and Dan Jones


Q

Pippa Jones, aged 23, from Southampton asked:

Is a nautical mile the same distance as a normal land mile?

A

Hello Pippa

A nautical mile is a bit longer than a normal land mile [statute mile], 1.15 times to be precise. Its length is equal to 6080.2 feet, whereas a statute mile is equal to 5280 feet.

Ian Lewis


Q

Pippa Jones, aged 23, from Southampton asked:

What is the distance (in miles, kilometers and nautical miles) between the degrees of latitude and the degrees of longitude?

A

Hi Pippa again,

You’ve got me there. This sounds rather like a maths lesson! The distance between lines of longitude changes, as you approach the poles it becomes less. One degree of latitude is 60 nautical miles or 111.8 km [ as a nautical mile is 1.15 larger than a statute miles, I reckon that the equivalent distance in statute miles is 69 miles.]

We’ve been travelling nautical miles , so we haven’t gone as far as if we were on land!

Ian Lewis and Jez Evans


Q

Mr Lewis' favourite science class (10red2) at Wyvern Technology College asked:

Mr Lewis, We would like to know what kind of plant life is at the bottom of the sea and how the fish glow at the bottom.

A

Hi guys,

Organisms in the waters deeper that the surface few hundred metres live in a world which is virtually without natural light. Outside of this surface layer there is no plant life. For the vast majority of the deep sea the animals rely on food falls from the surface waters to supply their food chains. This food rains down continuously but often very slowly from the shallows and during the trip to the deep seabed the majority of it gets eaten by other animals on the way down. In some cases large food falls can occur such as dead fish and even whales, there are many deep sea animals adapted as long range scavengers, continuously roaming this vast environment using their keen senses to detect these food parcels from above.

Unlike the communities here, in a few areas of the deep sea there are communities that do not rely on food from above, these have food chains based on bacteria that use chemicals to produce energy (chemosynthetic animals) such as those found in the hot vents. If so what is the greatest depth they could live? As talked about previously animal life has been found all the way to the greatest depths in the ocean.

How do fish glow?
A number of deep-sea animals are bioluminescent, these use specialised organs in their bodies to produce light. Although there a number of different types these organs tend to contain light producing bacteria which are supplied with energy and stimulated by the fish to light up. The bacteria produce light with complex biochemical reactions that use energy to produce light.

Dan Jones and  Ian Lewis


Q

Craig Ince, aged 12, from New Milton asked:

Is it cold out at sea?

A

Hi Craig, it’s nice to hear from you!

It’s not cold at all, in fact I live in shorts and t-shirt till 4.00 in the morning when I finish my shift. Because we’re out at sea the temperature is not that different between the day and the night. This is because water takes longer than land to heat up and cold down so temperature changes are less extreme.

See you next week!

Elena Fernandez


Q

Fainche Whelan, aged 12, from St Anne's School asked:

Do you see more animals at day or at night? Please send me a picture of an animal you have seen.

A

Hi Fainche

We see more animals in the day but that may be due to the fact it is light and easier to spot them. Also, there are more of us awake and looking. When one person spots a whale or dolphins they alert the rest of us so that we can share in the pleasure. I have noticed that we’ve seen more whales in the afternoon. We have birds that use us as a floating perch and a place to rest, these often overnight somewhere on the ship. If you want to see what we have found, have a look at our diaries or the Gallery where you will see pictures of whales etc.

Ian Lewis

We also see many animals at night; the ship’s lights attract shoals of fish and swimming crabs, on which squid feed. A couple of nights we’ve received the visit of dolphins; they were rounding shoals of fish and eating at pleasure. I’ve never seen anything like it, they swam and jumped around the ship for about 20 minutes.

Elena Fernandez


Q

Rebecca, aged 13, from St Anne's School asked:

Have you seen any killer whales on the hunt?

A

Hi Rebecca,

No, we have not seen any killer whales. We have seen Fin whales, which are the second largest animal on earth, and Minke whales which are reasonably common. Killer whales or Orcas are the largest of the dolphin family. They are wide ranging but are found more commonly in the polar regions and cooler waters, especially over the continental shelf. They hunt in small groups or pods, I must admit that it would be brilliant to see a pod hunting. [ I have seen them at Sea World, they are most impressive, I remember sitting in the soak zone with my son and daughter!]

Thanks for the question

Ian Lewis


Q

Rebecca, aged 13, from St Anne's School asked:

Where is the best place to find whales? How many different types have you seen?

A

Hi Rebecca

We are aware of our limited knowledge of whales. The Cetacean group of whales, dolphins and porpoises are secretive and they spend most of their lives underwater which makes them hard to study. Generally speaking they can be seen in almost any sea in the world but they are more commoly seen at certain points and at certain times of the year. Around where we live the best whale spots are the Inner Hebrides and the west coast of Ireland. We do have sightings of dolphins along the south coast of the UK.

We have seen two different species of whale so far, the large Fin whale and the more common Minke whale.

Thanks for the question

Ian Lewis


Q

Hannah, aged 19, from Southampton asked:

What is the ultimate aim ofyour work? Will it be of use to us or just for scientific information?

A

The principle aim of the work of the researchers is to better understand the geology of these canyons so that we can make more informed predictions about the future and more accurate analyses about what has happened in the past. Lisbon suffered a terrible earthquake in 1755 which is marked clearly in the sediments in these canyons. By looking at this pattern and those in earlier sediments, we can make better predictions about when Lisbon may experience another earthquake.
The other use of this information will be to look for patterns in geological events that can then be applied to other sedimentary layers found in other places around the world. This will help us to predict where valuable resources, such as oil, can be located.
By finding out about the movement of sediment at sea we are able to understand how land made pollution, that is put into the sea is distributed.
I  think that these are useful outcomes because they have obvious applications, albeit long term.

Good question

Ian Lewis and Phil Weaver


Q

Ben Gale, aged 14 from New Milton asked:

Do you get bored on the boat all day?

A

Hi Ben,

We’re living a once in a lifetime experience; we’ve worked with a team of scientists doing frontline investigation, had a go at driving a powerboat, seen loads of whales and dolphins, written a diary and articles on our brilliant website with student interaction, met loads of people. Bored…..I don’t think so!

Elena Fernandez


Q

Kym Brooks, aged 14, from Christchurch asked:

Do you get to drink alcohol on the ship?

A

Hello Kym,

There are very clear regulations about alcohol and ships. Some countries do not allow any alcohol on their ships at any time. On the Charles Darwin there is a bar but it is not open like a pub. The captain has very clear limits about how much each person should drink and he has a responsibility to see that this is adhered to. We are all adults on the ship and we are allowed to drink, but within the limits that are set, never whilst on watch and always with consideration about safety and responsible behaviour.

Ian Lewis.


Q

Benidia Wibisono and Hannah Tengnah, aged 13, from St Anne's School asked:

Do you take animals from there surroundings to test them?  What sort of interesting animals have you seen? Could you send us sone pictures of them?

A

Hello Benidia and Hannah,

This is a geological cruise so we are interested mainly in sediment and how it is laid down. As we collect the mud from the deep ocean we do bring back some organisms that live in the mud. These are mainly microscopic, although we have brought back a sea urchin and a couple of worms that live in the sediment. We do take mud samples to take back to SOC in order to study the Foraminifera [see my diary of 10.6.04 for more details]. You can read all about the wildlife that we have seen on the cruise in the special report on this website. It is a record by Dr Russell Wynn who has compiled a log or sightings throughout the cruise. Picture of animals that we have seen feature in our daily diaries too - we cannot send these by e-mail, so have a look through the diaries.

Hope this answers your questions.

Ian Lewis


Q

Rebecca, aged 13, from St Anne's School asked:

Will you run out of water? What habits do you change when you're on board the ship?

A

Hi Rebecca,

Fortunately we will not run out of water. The ship loads up with water when it goes into a port and of course, we start to use this as soon as we depart. In order to keep the stored water at a safe level there is a system that makes more drinkable water every day. It uses seawater which is held within a low pressure chamber. This is heated by fresh water which has been used to cool the ehgine. The heat from this water heats the sea water which boils very easily as it is under low pressure. Water particles escape, salt particles stay behind and so the water needs to be trapped before it is put into the system to be drunk. This is a useful way of losing the heat from the engine too. Have a look at the article on ‘How does the ship work?’ on the website.

Good question!

Ian Lewis


Q

Lizzie Postle, aged 11, from the Arnewood School Science Club asked:

How far do oil spilages usually reach if it is really bad? what animals are mostly affected by it?

A

Hi Lizzie,

You can’t really generalise because it depends on many factors such as currents, sea condition, wind, type of oil, sea temperature etc. Oil spills have a serious impact on the marine environment. The worst situation is if the spillage reaches the coastline; it smoothers sand and rocks affecting all the coastal habitats. Many of the organisms in these areas can’t move away. Often seabirds think the oil is a shoal of fish and dive into it. The best thing with oil spills is to prevent them happening in the first time. Have a look at the oil spill section of the website.

Thanks for your question,

Elena Fernandez


Q

Kara Jennings, aged 12, from the Arnewood School asked:

What is it like to be on the boat and learning?

A

Hi Kara,

It’s one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. I hope you’ve also learned about the science that takes place on board by following the diaries and reading the articles. I’ll tell you more about it when I get back!

Elena Fernandez


Q

Xenya Jeffreys, aged 14, from Hampshire asked:

Hi, this must be a amazing experience, so have you learned many facts and information about the sea? Also, do you feel homesick and miss your friends. Have a great time!

A

Hi Xenya,

You’re right, I don’t think I’ve learnt so much in a long time, I hope you’ve also learnt a bit more about marine geology and about the science that takes place in a research vessel. I’m looking forward to getting back home and seeing my family but I haven’t been homesick - I’ve had no time!

Elena Fernandez


Q

Charlotte Carroll asked:

As you said on one of your web page little light penetretes beyonde 200-400m, it made me think. As i think there maybe plants deeper than 400m under water and you said not much light reaches that deep how could all the these other plants live without or with such little light available? can plants live without light?

A

Hi Charlotte,

This is a very good question! Plants cannot live without sunlight. They need it together with carbon dioxide and water to produce food by photosynthesis. Because of this we only find living plants in the surface regions of the ocean where the sunlight penetrates. Till very recently it was thought that all the ecosystems in the planet were dependant on photosynthetic organisms. In the recent years a new type of ecosystem has been discovered at deep sea hydrothermal vents. The amazing thing about it is that it’s independent of sunlight. The organisms living in it feed on chemosynthetic bacteria which use chemicals such as hydrogen sulphide to create organic matter.

Elena Fernandez


Q

Kasey-Lee Morfett, aged 13, from Hampshire asked:

What made you want to do this reasearch in the first place?

A

Pure adventure, you don’t get many chances in life to do something as exciting as this!

Elena Fernandez


Q

Tom Vivian, aged 13 from Arnewood School asked:

Have you made any tectonic discoveries?

A

Hi Tom,

We’ve made some interesting geological discoveries. We’ve found out that the Setubal canyon is less active than the Nazare. For a full scientific explanation have a look at the video clips!

Elena Fernandez


Q

Erika Federis, aged 13, from Arnewood School asked:

Are the animals you see quite tame or are they aggressive? Have you fed any wild animals on land or on sea? If you have, what were they like when you fed them? Did they take the food or did they refuse to?

A

Hi Erika,

All the animals we’ve encountered in this trip are wild, apart from Pete the pigeon!

They are neither tame or aggressive, they just get on with their life, most of the time ignoring us humans. We did, however, get a response from the dolphins when we whistled at them, they came up, had a look and probably thought “what are all these stupid humans up to?”

Elena Fernandez


Q

Jenny Tylee, aged 13, from Arnewood School asked:

How many dolphins were in a group together?

A

Hi Jenny,

Dolphins are often found in large, active schools. They jump and splash so they can be seen from a distance. School sizes vary depending on the season or the time of the day. During our trip we’ve seen a few schools of dolphins; some of them had up to twenty dolphins in them, other groups had as few as three.

Elena Fernandez


Q

Karl Hamling, from Hampshire asked:

Do you see a lot of plankton on the seabed?

A

Hi Karl

Plankton are small organisms that are found in the upper layers of the sea. When they die some my eventually fall to the sea bed, together with fine partcles of inorganic material. These combine to form the soft muudy sediments. This sediment forms slowly - a layer 1cm deep may take a thousand years to form.
The mud provides a habitat for other microbes and worms. You do not find living plankton in the sea bed.

Ian Lewis and Phil Weaver


Q

Janet Parry, from Arnewood School asked:

It's been good to be able to keep up woith Elena's exploits over the past weeks. It's a bit frustrating waiting for the previous day's diary to appear though. Where are the Arnewood Science club's experiment results?

A

Hi Janet,

The science club at the Arnewood School designed three experiments. The results for the polystyrene and seasickness ones are already on the website. They also designed a wildlife survey. We were lucky to have Russell Wynn on board who is an experienced wildlife watcher and was collecting his own data. He has passed us all of his information on wildlife viewings during the cruise and they are now published on the website.

Elena Fernandez

I appreciate it can be frustrating to wait for the daily diaries to appear, but email transmission from the ship only occurs twice a day - once in the morning, and once in the evening. So the previous day's diaries don't arrive at SOC until about 10.30am the following day, and it takes me a little while to get all the information on the web. Same goes for the questions too - by the time they arrive here at SOC and I compile them and send them to the ship, there's already a few hours' delay and then the team have to find time to answer them! Also, you have to appreciate that Ian and Elena are actually working as part of the team on the ship as well as writing all the reports for the website, so they're very busy people!

Vikki Gunn [web editor]


Q

Ben, aged 15 from Romsey asked:

I was wondering what sort of deep sea creatures there are at drilling depth if any... also has anybody done any fishing - if so whats been caught?  What is the food like on board? I've heard its all out of date!

A

Hi Ben,

We found a small sea urchin, there are probably sea cucumbers, various types of worms and lots of microscopic life. Nobody has done any fishing but we have seen swimming crabs, squid, small fish and two larger fishing living under a floating pallet. The ship has recently restocked its food and all is in date.

Phil Weaver


Q

Charlotte Roberts,Michaela Pressey & Karen Riddy, aged 14 from New Milton asked:

How long did it take to fix the drill?

A

We don’t actually have a drill on board. What you’re probably referring to is the corer that became detached from the weight that pushes it into the sediment. Fortunately there is a very professional team of technicians and crew on board that sorted out the problem immediately. They swapped over to spare parts which required the use of the crane (because it’s quite difficult to lift 1500kg by hand! ;-)

Thanks for your question,

Emma Northrop and Elena Fernandez


Q

Brenda and Anne asked:

Will you come back smelling all fishy and is the experiance amazing

A

Hi girls,

The ship doesn’t smell fishy but there is a distinctive smell to it that I’ll probably smell of when I get home.
This has certainly been one of the most exciting experiences in my life. Seeing the whales was a very moving experience. I also love working with the cores - they are key to understanding how the earth works.

Elena Fernandez


Q

Louise and Sara, aged 14 from Arnewood School asked:

Hi, What is the best part of your trip at the moment, and what is the most amazing thing you have seen?

A

I would say the most impressive thing was seeing a rock inside a piston core tube which would only fit in the orientation that it was. If you had rotated the rock by 90 degrees then it would never have fitted inside the tube. That was really interesting. Seeing some of the skills of the other people at work can also be quite incredible.

Emma Northrop


Q

Anne, Emily, Chani and Kirsty, aged 13, from Arenwood School asked:

Have you felt sea sick? And what are the toilets like?

A

I felt sick for the first two days. I’ll I wanted to do was lie in my cabin. It was awful and didn’t feel like eating anything, but by the third day I felt well enough to have dinner and I’m a bit worried about feeling land sick when I get back to solid ground! The toilets are fine, just like back at home.

Belinda Alker


Q

Hayley and Lauren, aged 14 from Arnewood School asked:

Thankyou for your reply to question, it was much appreciated. How have your travels been? Has it been a once in a life time experience?

A

It’s been one of the most wonderful experiences ever! It’s brilliant when you have the chance to do something different like this. I’m working on the scientists to bring me back soon.

Elena Fernandez Lee


Q

Spencer Roberts, aged 14, from New Milton asked:

Have you come across any sharks?

A

Hi Spencer,

Although you can find sharks such as basking sharks, blue sharks, makos and portbeagles in this area we still haven’t seen any. We have however seen a variety of marine wildlife: many fish, dolphins, squid, swimming crabs and whales.

Elena Fernandez Lee


Q

Molly from Bournemouth asked:

What has been ythe best thing since your journey has began?

A

There isn’t one best thing, there are loads of them! One of them is to work with a brilliant team of people. They are all very skilful and I’ve learnt so much from them. They are also good fun and we have a laugh together!

Elena Fernandez Lee


Q

George, Fred, Dill and Gary from BSB asked:

How big is your boat? And what make is it? How many knots can it do?

A

Hello Lads

The RRS Charles Darwin is a small ship compared to the cruise liners that enter Southampton docks. It was specifically designed for scientific research so it is a ‘one off’. It is 70metres long and 18 m wide at its widest part. Imagine a football pitch, it about two thirds the length and half the width. If you look at the diaries you will see a photo of the ship. Notice the low deck aft [the back], this is where we release the sampling devices. There is not a lot of space around the edges –just enough to walk along safely.
When the ship was built it could achieve a top speed of 15 knots. For economy it cruises normally at 10 knots. It will go much slower than this when sampling gear is in the water, often we are stationary for several hours.

I hope that answers your question.

Veit Huehnerbach and Ian Lewis


Q

Gareth Marshallsay, aged 14 from Arnewood School asked:

What time does the sun set out there?

A

Hello Gareth

The last couple of days the sun has set between 2055h and 2110h. Since it is spring and we are travelling northwards, the sunsets later and rises earlier each day. We have been watching the sun set every evening so far, in the hope to see the famous green flash. So far we have been unlucky because of the cloudy weather. What time is the sun setting where you live?

Ruth Plets


Q

Samuel Wood, aged 13 from the Arnewood School asked:

What is your favourite land and sea animal?

A

Hi Sam!

Check out Dan’s favourite sea animals on the website!
Most people on cruises choose one of the large whales as their favourite animal, however, although they are obviously very impressive to see, their elusive habits mean it is often difficult to get good views and photographs. In contrast, the group of seabirds called the skuas are intelligent, bold, attractive, and often approach the ship closely. Most of them feed in a unique way, by stealing the food that other birds, such as gulls, terns and Gannets, have caught themselves. They are therefore often called the ‘pirates of the bird world’! They steal food by bullying other less mobile seabirds and pulling their tail and wing feathers in the air; eventually the target panics sufficiently to regurgitate its hard-earned meal! On land my favourite animal is the Barn Owl – I am lucky enough to have a pair nesting near my house and often see them at dusk hunting in fields behind my garden.

Russell Wynn


Q

Talita and Annabel, aged 14 asked:

You spoke about seeing the back of the whale - what sort of whale was it and in detail what was the texture of its back?

A

Hi girls,

The whale we saw from the speedboat was a Minke whale. These are probably the commonest whale. Sadly we didn’t get close enough to touch it. This is probably illegal anyway. The back was black with a sheen that made it glisten in the sunshine. As whales are mammals they will have some fur. However, the back has none and is just bare skin. The black colour is probably beneficial for camouflage.

Ian Lewis


Q

James Davies from Arnewood School asked:

I'm wondering - does the weather affect the way you work around the boat? If so, what is the most damaging and what is the most helpful?

A

Hello James 

If the weather is rough it is nearly impossible to do any work out on deck. You always need a free hand to steady yourself in that kind of weather which makes it hard to work. When the waves are too high, we can’t do any coring which is prohibited at Force 6 and equipment cannot be recovered safely. The best condition is an absolutely flat sea which will result if there is no wind. 

Ruth Plets.


Q

Paul Cataffo, aged 14 asked:

How big was the biggest fish you've seen or caught?

A

Hi Paul

Sadly, we haven’t caught any fish. We are not on a trawling expedition and no one on board has been fishing with a rod. The reason for this is because we are working in a relatively infertile area of the sea. When we have been nearer to the  coast of Portugal we have entered an area of upwelling. This brings nutrients to the surface which enable a richer community to become established, We have noted more whales and sea birds at this time. I have seen only two types of fish in the sea, one was a shoal of sand eels, the other was a couple of large fish [cricket bat size] sheltering under an old wooden palette that had fallen off a ship.

Thanks for the question. See you soon

Ian Lewis


Q

Talita and Annabel, aged 14, from New Milton asked:

What type of greeny blue is the sea and does it change when you move to differnt parts of Portugal?

A

Hi Girls

The colour of the sea is never really greenish – blue in this area. The greenish colour you see on the English coast is caused by particulate [small solid grains and plankton] matter in the water. The water here has either a deep blue or greyish colour. The clearer the sky, the clearer and bluer the sea looks. [See the photos in Ian’s diary of 9th June.]

Ruth Plets


Q

Dasha and Natalie, aged 14, from New Milton asked:

How did you feel when you were chosen to do this?

A

Hi girls,

I felt very privileged to be chosen for this amazing project. I found out I was coming over a year ago. I was very excited but at times I’ve also felt nervous. It’s definitely been worthwhile!

Elena Fernandez Lee


Q

Charley, Kaz and Miki, aged 14 from Arnewood School asked:

Do you have powdered milk or fresh? Is the majority of your food tinned? What exactly do you eat???

A

Hi Girls

The milk we drink is actually frozen and you couldn’t tell the difference to fresh milk. We’re in our second week and still have a lot of ‘fresh’ food. For more information read the article on the catering on Darwin.

Elena Fernandez Lee


Q

Chloe Spratt from Wyvern Technology College asked:

Mr Lewis, I would like to ask a question about your journey. What species of fish have you encountered? And were there any unusal ones?

A

cAlthough you can find sharks such as basking sharks, blue sharks, makos and portbeagles we still haven’t seen any. We have however seen a variety of marine wildlife: many fish, dolphins, squid, swimming crabs and whales.  I have seen only two types of fish in the sea, one was a shoal of sand eels, the other was a couple of large fish [ cricket bat size] sheltering under an old wooden palette that had fallen of a ship.
This is partly determined by the times of my watch, the watch before me have seen several fish shoals being fed on by dolphins and squid!

Thanks for the question

Ian lewis


Q

Chloe Sadler and Kate Lloyd from Wyvern Technology College asked:

What sort of animals live in the coral and on the sea bed? Can you name some of the types of coral and the fish?

A

Hi Girls

Around here we do not have any coral. Corals are not confined to the warm shallow waters of the world, some grow in the North Atlantic. They are good feeding grounds for fish and good fishing grounds for fishermen. We have not been able to deploy our seabed observation platform, SHRIMP. This houses powerful lights and video cameras. The reason for this is a fault in the optical fibre. We cannot say that we have seen any fish at the sea bed. We have captured a sea urchin and some Hydroids using the corers. Lots of microscopic organisms live in the deep sea sediment.
I hope this is useful although it does not directly answer your question.

Ian Lewis


Q

Vicky Head from Wyvern Technology College asked:

How do jellyfish eat?

A

Jelly fish are not one individual animal but large colonies of individual animals, these individuals take a number of different forms and are specialised to their role in the Jellyfish colony. There are individual animals responsible for trapping prey, feeding, flotation, movement etc. Jellyfish typically feed using its nematocysts, these are small cells on their tentacles that contained a coiled up springlike harpoon. When a prey animal brushes against these a trigger mechanism releases the spring and its harpoon like end traps the prey and often poisons it. Many of these nematocysts are triggered by a prey animal. The tentacles are then used to transport the prey into its stomach, where individuals specialised in digestion digest the prey and distribute the nutrients to the necessary parts of the colony.

Dan Jones


Q

Nathan Kelly and Tom Fulford from Wyvern Technology College asked:

Can fish cross breed? How do fish process the salt in the water when they drink? How do fish hear? What happens to all the poo that fish do? And do fish fart?

A

It is difficult to give an absolute answer to crossbreeding question. It is unlikely in the wild as there is no need. Mating rituals, the scale of the environment, seasons, egglaying terrain preferences and others, would prevent anything other than accidental crossbreeding

How do fish process the salt water they drink?
This is a complex process, through osmosis and altering osmotic potential gradients throughout the digestive system fish are able to process and secrete all the excess salts in their diet. Freshwater fish drink much less than marine fish with almost all the water they need being contained in their diet.

Fish may well fart, they would be more likely to this when descending. Why?

Fish poo is often eaten by other animals before it reaches the sea bed. If it does get this far it will feed the microscopic decomposers that live in the sediment.

Good questions lads, check out the proper words for poo [faeces] and fart [anal gas emissions or windypoos]

Ian Lewis and Dan Jones


Q

Craig Hiscock from Wyvern Technology College asked:

How dep can fish go without exploding?

A

Unfortunately this is a physics question as well as a biology question but here we go! Water is virtually incompressible, air, on the other hand, is compressible under pressure. Many fish have air filled swim bladders in their body that help keep them neutrally buoyant (so they dont float or sink!). These swim bladders not open to the water and are filled by secretion of gasses by the fish, this occurs at ambient pressure. In deep sea fish this gas is at high pressure naturally. The only problem comes when you bring them up to the surface, then (due to Boyles law) as the pressure drops the gas expands. As I said it is a sealed gas space, the fish cannot adsorb the gas quick enough if it is brought quickly to the surface and the swim bladder explodes. It is usually forced out of the fishes body and explodes out of its mouth. The same problem can occur to divers if they hold their breath and come up from as little as 10m deep.

Imagine the effects of the 5000m we are typically working in.

Dan Jones


Q

Emily Slater and Charlie Hope from Wyvern Technology College asked:

Do some fish reflect light at the very bottom,on the sea bed and why do they do this?Where and how do fish sleep?

A

Hi Girls

It depends on the depth of the water and the penetration of light. Near the seashore fish will reflect sunlight. They are often shinier on their lower surface, this is for camouflage as they will blend in with the shiny sea surface when viewed from below by predators. They are often black on their upper surface, again for camouflage. Some fish live just buried in the sand and assume the colour of the sediment, so they will reflect this light pattern. At the depths we are working, there is no light, so there is nothing to be reflected.

Regarding sleeping fish, as far as I can find out they do not sleep as we do. Good questions!

Ian lewis


Q

Gareth Marshallsay, from Arnewood School asked:

How come the drill broke?

A

Gareth

We don’t actually have a drill on board. I think you mean the piston corer. This is designed to core into mud and soft sediment. It works by a trip mechanism that causes the pipes to freefall on a short length of wire into the sea bed. With 1500kg [ approximately the mass of a car] in freefall there is a lot of force. The corer hit some very hard rock or rocks which was unexpected. This caused a failure in the connection between the weight and the tubes below. The piston which is connected to the cable, is a bigger diameter than the top of the tube. In this way we were safely able to recover all the parts of the corer.

Emma Northrop


Q

Tyler Haines, aged 13, from New Milton asked:

What is it like on the cruise?

A

Hi Tyler,

Being on the cruise is a lifetime experience. There is some much going on I can hardly sleep with the worry of missing something. It’s hard to highlight something about the cruise because everything we’re doing is amazing!

Elena Fernandez Lee


Q

Larissa and Beth, aged 14, from New Milton asked:

Is being on board the ship slimy and smelly? Also are the weather conditions good or have you had any huge storms?

A

Hi girls,

The ship isn’t slimy and smelly, it is however rusty and oily! Fortunately for us the weather has been great, is hot and sunny with a nice breeze. Thank goodness there has been no storms, my stomach couldn’t survive it!

Elena Fernandez Lee


Q

Dowley asked:

Hey, I was wondering how you feel being round the sea all the time. I bet it's really exciting?

A

At times you feel free to go wherever you want, other times you feel isolated and far away, it’s a strange feeling.

Sara


Q

Simon Ward, aged 17, from Ringwood asked:

The photos are amazing, the diary is really interesting. Is there going to be a follow up exhibition when you return?

A

Simon,

We are currently thinking about the follow up. The best place to look for information about this will be the website. Elena and I are certainly expecting to make some presentations using our materials. Initially these will be in assemblies at our schools. We have some plans to present to other teachers because a similar project will run in two years time.

Ian Lewis

Hi Simon,

Hope your exams are going well!

We will definitely be making a presentation about this amazing project. We’ve already been asked to attend the Hampshire Teaching and Leadership College conference and we are writing an article about the cruise for NERC's Planet Earth magazine.

See you soon,

Elena Fernandez Lee


Q

Rachel Lewis, aged 14, from Fair Oak asked:

What's been the best and the worst part of the trip so far?

A

Hi Rachel,

The best part of the trip has been being in the speedboat when the whale surfaced next to us. This is extremely rare and the fact that I’ve got a video of it makes it even better. The worst part is having to get up so early, although once I’m up I feel OK. I am looking forward to a really good lie in when I return!

Thanks again for your question.

Ian Lewis


Q

Amy Brooks, aged 12, from Arnewood School Science Club asked:

What sorts of rocks and sediments have been newly discovered at the bottom of the sea thanks to the cruise?

A

On the cruise we haven’t actually discovered any new rocks or sediments. What we have found is that the Nazare canyon is very sandy and probably has sediments being transported down it from the continental shelf. The Setubal canyon has a lot of mud at the seabed indicating that it’s in a quiet phase.

Thanks Amy, see you next week!

Elena Fernandez


Q

Amy Brooks, aged 12, from Arnewood School Science Club asked:

Why doesn't the polystyrene expand again when it comes up?

A

We’ve finally sent the polystyrene cups down, yours came back up safely!
The reason why the polystyrene compresses under pressure is because all the air is expelled out of it. Because of the high pressure the polystyrene is under, the change in its structure is permanent. As it comes back to the surface the air can get back into it, the polystyrene doest spring into its original shape. I hope Dr Moran agrees with this reply!

Elena Fernandez


Q

Callum Mitchell, aged 12, from Arnewood School Science Club asked:

Why have you got Pete the Pigeon on board?

A

Pete the Pigeon arrived on the ship when we were about 100 km offshore of Portugal. He was obviously very tired and hungry so it was unlikely that he would have got back to dry land if we didn’t help him. We have therefore made him a temporary cage and are giving him food and water every day. He has been eating rice, biscuits and breadcrumbs and seems quite happy and perky. We hope to get him back to dry land in Spain on Sunday at the end of the cruise, and then there is a chance that we may be able to get one of our equipment transporters to carry him in his lorry back to Calais. We don’t know if Pete will be allowed to travel on the ferry across the English Channel, but if he can then we should be able to get him back to Southampton. His owner lives in the Crewe area of northwest England, and if Pete is a bit tired I’m sure his owner will arrange for him to get a nice ride back to his home pigeon loft!

Russell Wynn


Q

Amy Brooks, aged 12, from Arnewood School Science Club asked:

Have you been in the sea yet?

A

Hi Amy,

Unfortunately because of health and safety reasons we’re not allowed to get in the water, but I have been tempted!

Elena Fernandez 


Q

Callum Mitchell, aged 12, from Arnewood School Science Club asked:

Have you seen any underwater volcanoes?

A

Hi Callum,

In the region where were working there are many underwater canyons but no volcanoes, sorry!

Elena Fernandez


Q

Jess, aged 12, from Arnewood Scool Science Club asked:

Where do you sleep?

A

We each have a small cabin with a bunk in it. If you’re in the bottom bunk, there is someone next door in a top one. Ruth sleeps above me, I don’t need to put my alarm clock on because I just use hers.

Elena Fernandez


Q

Callum Mitchell, aged 12, from Arnewood School Science Club asked:

Who would be thrown over board if the ship was sinking and why?  (Dr Park said this to me!)

A

Hi Callum,

I’m not sure, I’ve just asked James (one of the crew) and he says Ruth, but I say him!

Elena Fernandez


Q

Luke Deadman, aged 15, from Arnewood School asked:

When you are out there how hot has it been and how cold it has been? Can you bring a rock back for me?

A

Hi Luke, is good to hear from at least one of my year ten students!
The weather is lovely, it gets quite hot during the day but there is always a nice breeze. It hasn’t been cold at all, it’s eleven o’clock at night and I’m wearing shorts and t-shirt. I can’t bring any rocks back but I do have some deep sea mud to show you!

Elena Fernandez


Q

Laura Dear asked:

How many currents are there in the sea and do you know what they are called?

A

Hi Laura

This is a difficult question to answer because there are so many currents and they do not always flow in a constant direction. Imagine the currents to be like roads, some are motorways and others are side roads. Sometimes one current will flow in a circle and can therefore be flowing in opposite directions in different places. The cause of currents is differences in temperature and salinity [saltiness], the spinning of the earth and shape of the sea floor which can direct upwellings. Around where we are is the Canary Current Coastal Province – rather like a county. Specific currents here are the Portugal Current, the Coastal Counter Current  and Mediterranean  Outflow Water.

Sara Sorhouet and Ian Lewis


Q

Catherine Taylor from Wyven Technology College asked:

What's it like out there and what's the weather like?

A

Hello Catherine,

Its lovely out here. I am enjoying the relative isolation, the freedom from cars and the media, and the excellent company of the scientists, technicians and crew. I have minimal responsibility and am not chased by pupils so life is very stress free. The weather is always warm , we had a lot of cloud in the first few days but the sun has started to shine now and there is little wind. The weather is forecast to become a bit rougher.

I gather you are having excellent weather in the UK, non blazer days!

Keep well

Ian Lewis


Q

Hayley Mulvehill asked:

If Plankton is from the Greek word planktos, what is zooplankton from a Greek root word? Is phytoplankton the same as photosynphesis but for plankton?

A

Hi Hayley,

Interesting thoughts…

Zoo means animal in Greek.
Phyto means plant in Greek.
So there are two types of plankton, some are plants and some are animals. What is the difference between plants and animals?

Elena Fernandez


Q

Megan, Shiqi and Lucy from St Anne's School, Southampton asked:

Megan: What was your favourite experiment whilst on the ship and why? If given the chance, would you go back on the ship again, would you?
Lucy: what have been your worst and least favourite experiences so far? and if you were given the chance to get off the ship now would you?
Shiqi:have you had any near death experiences? and what was the most amazing experience? (please give a interesting answer)

Love from all at st annes,
Megan, Shiqi and lucy :)

A

Hi girls,

The polystyrene cup experiment is pretty impressive, if you look at the article on it [click here] you can see the table of results and the before and after photos!
I would definitely come back again. I’ve been trying to convince the scientists to let me come on the next cruise!
The best experience so far is everything, the worst nothing (apart from the sea sickness in the first days).
Since none of us have had a near death experience we’ve come up with a list of possible ways of dying out in sea:

  1. Shark attack
  2. Tsunami
  3. Crashing into an iceberg
  4. Release of poisonous fumes by an underwater volcano
  5. A cable being caught by a submarine and being dragged into the deep sea
  6. Pirate attack
  7. Drinking bad milk
  8. Falling from the edge of the water
  9. Being sick to death
  10. Being knocked out of the dingy by a giant squid
  11. Being squashed by winch
  12. Getting locked in the freezer

Can you think of any others?

Elena Fernandez


Q

Jason from the Arnewood School asked:

To Elena, how deep are you sampling? - I mean both the sea depth and how far down do the cores actually go?  Good to see it's going well! Keep it up (or should I say down if we're talking about sea sickness!)

A

Hi Jason,

The underwater canyons we’re sampling are at a depth of 3500 to 5100 metres.
We use different types of cores with a length that varies from 60cm to 8.5metres. I’m not seasick anymore but I might be land sick on Tuesday!

Thanks

Elena Fernandez


Q

Rachel Lewis, aged 14, from Eastleigh asked:

Can fish breath out of water?

A

HI Rachel

Another good question!

Fish 'breathe' by pumping their blood over a very fine network of blood vessels in the gills providing a very large surface area for gas exchange. In water these fine blood vessels are supported allowing them to work effectively, when you take a fish out of water these fine structures stick together and cannot function as a gas exchange surface so the fish cannot 'breathe'. There are some exceptions to this, for example in the tropical mangrove areas fish called mudskippers live in mud, typically staying out of the water for relatively long periods. They do this with a modified lung, which although not as effective as other land animals can allow prolonged periods out of water. It is thought that the land was first populated with animals by fish like creatures evolving to breathe air.

Ian Lewis


Q

Rachel Lewis, aged 14, from Eastleigh asked:

I dont understand the different uses of the kasten corer, the pistol corer and the trial corer (or something like that)could you please explain it to me?

Hello Rachel

Each corer has a different purpose. The type that we use is decided by looking at the pattern of the sediments from previous samples, our expectations and a detailed sea floor mapping process. As it takes a long time to deploy them and move between sites, the decision is made by Phil Weaver, Principal Scientist and Doug Masson who is expert at interpreting sea floor data. Choose the wrong one and you could end up with a useless sample or a broken piece of equipment.
All of the corers are lowered at about 60 meters per minute to within 100-200m of the sea bed. We know this depth from the echo-sounder, the winch records the amount of wire that has been wound out [‘veered wire out’]. From here they are lowered more carefully. A monitor in the winch control measures the strain on the wire in tonnes. A typical value would be 4 to 5 tonnes. After the corer has penetrated the sediment the strain drops, this is the sign for the winch man to slowly haul on the rope. AS it is pulled back the strain increases - up to about 7 tonnes so far on this trip. [It is possible for the longer corers to anchor the ship to the seabed as they cannot be pulled out directly!]
The Kasten Corer is stainless steel  and rectangular in section. It has a trap at the bottom and a weight at the top which pushes the box into the sediment. It is particularly useful for taking large samples of soft sediment. From the sample collected we take two profiles along the length of the tube and a section of thin slabs which are sent off for a whole range of tests. This corer is the muckiest when on deck and takes a bit of cleaning with the hose pipe.

The Piston Corer
This consists of a long tube which, on our trip may be up to 18m long and 150mm diameter. It has a much larger weight on top. The piston is a clever device, the purpose of which is to minimise the compression of the layers as the corer is pushed through. We are trying a new version that has been borrowed from Dutch scientists. This returns with a long cylindrical sample which is cut into 1.5m lengths, and each is carefully labelled so that we know their order and the right way up. In the wet lab we slice these in half lengthways. Russell describes the sediment pattern  and Belinda is responsible for storing. One half is photographed and held as an ‘archive section’. The other half will be used for the tests done back at SOC. Both have to be stored at 4oC to preserve them. The piston inside the Piston Corer is ‘triggered’ by a smaller corer which is attached to a trigger arm. As this hits the bottom it also takes a small core. This is particularly useful as it will be of the surface which is often blasted away by the large impact of the main corer.

We also use a mega corer. This takes very careful samples of the sea bed with the water immediately above it. Plastic tubes are slowly forced into the sediment and held in place by spring loaded lids top and bottom. This sample is useful for biological sampling of the organisms found in the top sediments and for a really accurate profile. See the web site for pictures of each type.

 A rather long answer, but I hope it is useful.


Q

Bradley, aged 14 from Hampshire asked:

Have you found any interesting things yet

A

Hi Bradley,

A minute doesn’t pass onboard without something interesting happening! Everyday we bring up cores of sediment from the deep sea. These sediments have been untouched and unseen by humans before. Studying them helps us understand how the Earth works. The stuff you learn at school about the rock cycle is based on the work carried out by scientists on research cruises like this one. Find out more in the diaries and articles.

Thanks for your question, see you next week!

Elena


Q

Matt Lowe asked:

How many different types of fish have you seen?

A

Hi Matt,

We’ve been extremely lucky in the amount of wildlife we’ve seen during the cruise.

We see fish specially at night when they come up to the surface to feed. One night we saw loads of sandeels being hunted by squid. We’ve also seen a flying fish, cod, herring, salmon, tuna and sardines. The named ones have been on our plates for meals!

Thanks for you question

Science team


Q

Alex Corbin, aged 14, from New Milton asked:

What have you been eating for your breakfast? Is it fun on the boat?

A

Hi Alex,

The food on board is brilliant, but as it happens I don’t eat breakfast. The reason for this is I work on the night shift from 4.00 in the afternoon till 4.00 in the morning. Breakfast is served at 7.30 but I’m still in my bunk.
I’m having a brilliant experience. There is interesting things happening all the time. I love opening cores; it a very strange feeling when you think the sediments you are looking at were in the bottom of the sea at 5000metres of depth a couple of hours ago and took thousands of years to deposit!

Nice to hear from you,

Elena


Q

Emily D. and Charlotte R. asked:

Hello. Is it fun at sea? What has the weather been like? Have you seen any fish?!!! Or whales/seals/dolphins? How are the experiments going? Today in Biology we did exam questions on the filtration in the kidney. Yay! It's really hot here, so it's a non-blazer day, if you're interested. Try to make a scientific discovery! Enjoy the plankton trawling!

A

Hello Emily and Charlotte

I’m having a fantastic time and it is a great experience. Its not all fun, I have to get up at 0330hrs and work for 12 hours. Check out the diary for the sorts of jobs. The weather is now glorious although it was cloudy for the first week. The experiments are going really well. I have some good results for the polystyrene crushing. Check the investigation that I have put onto the website. The wildlife watch is very interesting – thee have been some unexpected sightings – birds of several types, butterflies and moths! Yes, I have seen whales. Have a look at my diary for 7th June to read an account and see some pictures. The video was taken by me whilst on a small  motor boat!

Its non blazer day here too. Shorts and T under the overalls.

Keep the questions coming. Nice to hear from you.


Q

Amy Middleton, aged 15 from Wyvern Technology College asked:

How is everything going on the ship? How is my seasickness survey going? Have you found any volenteers to carry out the question sheets?

A

Hi Amy

We are all fighting fit and we are collecting some useful and interesting data, the scientific team are happy with this. Its not all plain sailing, you can magine that it is not easy bring up loads of undisturbed sediment from the sea bed and 18m into it.
Your sea sickness survey has been a hit! However, try asking someine who is suffering to fill in a form and you get a very short answer! The forms were filled in on the third day retrospectively, this was when most people who suffered had recovered.
I’m having a geat time an dit is made all the more enjoyable knowing that it is providing interest and useful information. [Click here to see results of the seasickness survey]

Keep working hard! Thanks for the question and get some of your mates to send some in.

Ian Lewis


Q

Matt Lowe asked:

How many different kind of fish have you seen?

A

One flying fish, one unidentified and some cod, herring, salmon, tuna and sardines. The named ones have been on our plates for meals!


Q

Anna Christine, aged 18 from Hampshire asked:

Have you found any signs of oil from the Prestige oil spill last year on the North West Coast of Spain? Has it affected the marine life that far south?  Can you do anything to help alleviate the problem?

A

Hi Anna,

The canyons we’re studying in this cruise are the Setubal and the Nazare; in the south west of Portugal. Because of the currents, the oil spilled by the Prestige moved mainly towards the north and northeast so it didn’t really reach this far.
All oil spills have severe effects on the local marine environment. In this case the spill was too far away to have a direct effect on the marine life of this area. There are many methods of clearing oil spills in the sea, but the best alternative is to avoid them in the first place. For more information on this topic check the oil spill section of the website.

Elena


Q

David, aged 12, from Madrid in Spain asked:

Did you get any basalt out of the sea?

A

Hola David!

Basalt is mainly made in the oceanic crust. You can, however, find it on land if the deep ocean plate has been uplifted, this happens for example in Cypress and Oman. It also becomes exposed on land in places like Iceland and the Azores, these are islands found on mid-ocean ridges so they are actually made of basalt.

Gracias por mandarnos tu pregunta.

Phil and Elena


Q

David, aged 12, from Madrid in Spain asked:

What is the origin of the sediment? Do they came from the rivers of the Iberian Peninsula Atlantics slope (MiÒo, Duero, Tajo, Guadiana and Guadalquivir)??

A

The sediments transported by the canyons have three origins, some come from the Tagus (Tajo) river. The other rivers you mention are too far away from the canyons we’re studying in this cruise, but they probably feed sediments into other underwater canyons.
Some of the sediment comes from the erosion of the canyon itself and there is also an input from sediment that is transported along the shelf.

Phil and Elena


Q

Jess Rogers, aged 11, from Arnewood School Scienice Club asked:

Have you seen any sharks or whales if so then what did they look like?

A

Hi Jess,

In the last few days we’ve seen quite a few whales (mainly fin whales). A few hours ago we saw around five common dolphins that came up to the ship attracted by the lights. They seemed to respond to our whistles and claps and we really enjoyed watching them play around the ship.
We haven’t seen any sharks but you do find some species such as Basking sharks, Dogfish and Blue sharks in this region.

Elena


Q

Jesana, aged 60 from Cornwall asked:

Are you going to see whales on your cruise?

A

Hello Jesana, we’re happy to see we have followers of the cruise all round the UK. We have been lucky enough to see three Fin Whales already on this trip. They are the second largest animals on Earth, behind the Blue Whale, and can sometimes be seen off western and northern coasts of the UK in summer and autumn, so keep your eyes open!!

Russell and Elena


Q

Larissa and Beth wanted to know:

Is this the most life changing experience you have ever endured? Also, what is the most beautiful and spectular sea creature you have seen?

A

Hi girls,

This will definitely be an experience I’ll remember for the rest of my life! Dolphins and whales are very beautiful. But I have to say, there are some very interesting creatures living on this ship as well. I think the most spectacular one must be the nocturnal Rhys (check his profile for a picture, habitat and behaviour).

Ruth and Elena


Q

Jack wanted to know:

Does it smell fishy? what are you eating on the boat - fish?

A

Hi Jack,

It’s an interesting question because the deep sea cores do have a slight rotting seaweed smell that might remind you of fish. Our menu is very varied; it includes fresh vegetables and fruits, meat, pasta, cereals etc, it’s probably very similar to yours, but as it happens today we had fish! If you read through the diaries you can find out more about the ship and the menu onboard.

Elena


Q

Michaela Pressey, aged 13 from New Milton asked:

What different types of equipment do you use on the boat?

A

Hi Michaela,

It’s really hard to answer your question since we have an uncountable amount of equipment on the ship. Both the scientists and engineers brought loads of instruments. On top of that there is the navigational system used by the cruise. If you want more information on all of this, we suggest you have a look through the website. We have described the coring equipment and navigation system in more detail.

Ruth


Q

Dan and Alan wanted to know:

Are there any coral reefs on the coast of portugal?

A

Hello boys, your question created lots of interest and debate. There are no tropical coral reefs anywhere in the Atlantic coast of Europe. However, fast growing cold water coral is quite common in this area living as deep as 1000 metres. This coral is often found in the heads of canyons, here it’s protected from bottom trawling fishing.

Send us more questions to keep the team busy!

Phil


Q

Nikki Dossit, aged 14, from New Milton asked:

What different types of dolphins have you seen?

A

Hi Nikki, I’m glad to see that you’re following the cruise!

We have seen at least two types of dolphins so far, with a group of eight Striped Dolphins bow-riding at the front of the ship, and a couple of Common Dolphins that briefly passed by the port side. Both species are fairly common in this region, and can form huge groups containing several hundred individuals. Unfortunately they are so fast it is often hard to get a good photo but I tried my best, what do you think?

Keep the questions coming and tell the rest of the class to send us some more (sensible!) questions.

Elena and Russell


Q

Talita and Annabel wanted to know:

What happons when there is a oil slick in the sea? Why did you want to become someone who watches and studies the sea and what lives in it ? When you got into the competition what was your first reaction to this opotuionity of a life time?

A

Hi Talita and Annabel, I asked Russell (one of the scientists) to answer your first question:

"Ever since I was young I have been fascinated by the natural world, and growing up by the sea meant I was always drawn to life beneath the waves. Although my career has taken me into the field of marine geology, I am still able to watch and photograph marine wildlife during our offshore research cruises. Being able to combine different disciplines is a key feature of modern natural science, so my hobby is often a great benefit to my job, and vice versa."

When I found out I was coming on the research cruise I just couldn’t believe it. I’ve always been really interested in marine science and this was an amazing opportunity to see what it’s all really about. The best thing about this trip is that we’re able to show you everything that’s going on, and who knows… it might be you here in the future. Tell everyone at Arnewood to keep the questions coming!

Click here to find out about oil slicks in the sea.

Russell and Elena


Q

Amy Brooks, aged 12, from the Science Club at Arnewood School asked:

Are you mising your family?

A

Hi Amy, it’s good to hear from you, we have your polystyrene cup here and will be send in it to the deep ocean soon so  keep an eye on the diaries!

Although I’m really enjoying the research cruise I do miss my family and every day life. One thing I’ve realised being away from my normal life is how lucky I am to have it and how much I enjoy being a teacher. This trip would have much less meaningful to me if it wasn’t for you lot back in school! Tell the science club guys to bombard us with loads of questions.

Elena

Yes, of course we miss our families and friends, nevertheless we don’t normally spend much time at sea, we’ll soon be back. Sometimes it’s good to be away because we learn to appreciate life, you don’t know how good things are till you’ve lost them. I’m probably not the best person to answer this since there are people here working for longer periods of time and that is very hard. It is also a good opportunity to meet new people and make new friends and now I have a new family.

Sara


Q

Louise Bryan, aged 12, from Wyvern Technology College asked:

Would the amount of plankton in the sea determine how many whales there would be?

A

Hi Louise,

Phytoplankton in the sea are at the bottom of the food chain, and their presence is certainly necessary if higher order organisms, including whales, are to flourish. For example, off the west coast of the UK, plankton numbers are low in winter but increase during the summer. Consequently, several species of whales migrate north from lower latitude wintering grounds to spend the summer in rich feeding areas such as the deep waters west of Shetland.

Russell


Q

Alex Brown, aged 12, from Wyvern Technology College asked:

Have you seen any sharks?

A

Hi Alex,

We have not seen any sharks so far on this trip, although I have seen both Thresher and Hammerhead Sharks in this region on previous cruises. They are normally seen in shallower water close to the continental shelf. However, we have seen a single Green Turtle that drifted by the ship during our passage to the work area.

Russell


Q

Ben Hooper, aged 12, from Wyvern Technology College asked:

How can whale sounds can travel for hundreds of miles?

A

Hi Ben,

The Humpback Whale is probably the most vocal of all whales, and a long-play record consisting entirely of Humpback Whale song actually became a cult hit in the 1970’s! Humpback Whales produce sound in the frequency range 40 to 5,000 Hz and have several different types of song; they can even sing continuously for over 24 hours. The general range of the song is at least 30 km, with certain low frequency ‘snores’ and ‘groans’ likely to be audible up to 200 km away. The reason why this sound can travel so far is partly due to the different properties of sound in water and air, with low frequency sound being able to travel much further under the sea than in the air. 

Russell


Q

Siobhan Blakely, aged 13, from Southampton asked:

Why do fish not crush under the pressure? do they have a certain depth they can swim to?

A

Hi Siobhan,

Thanks for your question. You may apply your particle model here. Liquids and solids cannot be compressed because the particles have no spaces between them. As a fish has no lungs and most of it is liquid or solid, it cannot be crushed. However, many fish have an organ called a swim bladder. This is like an air sac within the fish and the fish can regulate the volume of this. Now apply your understanding of forces and buoyancy. By increasing the volume of the swim bladder the fish will gain a lower average density and so will float higher. They can also reduce the volume and so float deeper. Most fish operate in a particular depth band as they are adapted to certain food sources.

Ian Lewis  


Q

Rebecca Wells and Stacey Walker, aged 12, from Wyvern Technology College asked:

What type of fish live in the depths of the ocean what animals are in their food chains ?

A

Hi girls,

The deep sea is probably one of the less studied environments in the planet. Because of the low temperature, high pressure, limited food supply and lack of light the organisms that live here have very specific adaptations. One of the most common types is the rat-tail, they are up to six foot long scavengers eating any large food fall that reaches the deep sea from the more productive upper layers of the ocean. Check the section on deep sea environments for more information on food webs.

Dan


Q

Rebecca Wells and Stacey Walker, aged 12, from Wyvern Technology College asked:

How do sailors use stars to navigate their way around the sea?

A

Hello Girls,

This is a tricky one to explain and I have written a lengthier description of this as an article on the website [click here]. 

To know where you are you have to find your latitude and longitude. These are coordinates on imaginary lines that cover the Earth. Sailors have found latitude, the distance between the equator and the poles, by using the Pole Star. If you can see this at night you measure the angle between the star and the horizon from your boat. The lower the angle, the nearer you are to the equator. If you are at the North Pole, the Pole Star will be directly above your head. The sextant is the traditional instrument used for this although there have been others.

Finding longitude is a lot harder because the Earth spins and stars appear to change position. Sailors could not rely on this measurement until they had accurate clocks [chronometers]. Once the time difference between your location and the Greenwich Meridian is known, the position of the sun is a good indicator of longitude.

Tricky!

Today, sailors use satellites and GPS to locate their position to within about 10metres.

Ian Lewis


Q

Rose Gaunt, aged 12, from Wyvern Technolgoy College asked:

Is the night sky clearer? Can you see lots of stars?

A

Hi Rose

Thanks for the question.

I would love the night sky to be clear. This is one thing I was looking forward to because we are away from all of the land based light pollution. Sadly, the nights have been cloudy and the best we can hope for on such nights is a good look at the moon. As we have a week left at sea there is hope that our night sky view will improve.

Keep sending the questions!

Ian Lewis


Q

Jack Bolton, aged 14, from Wyvern Technology College asked:

How can you see a current in the sea? Also how come the stregth of currents in different places are different?

A

Hello Jack

Thank you for your question. Keep sending them in.

Ocean currents are largely determined by the temperature of the sea water and this is determined by season and distance to the equator. Differences between temperatures of different water bodies – eg the North Atlantic and the Mid Atlantic, creates water masses of different density. You will know that less dense warmer water floats on more dense colder water. As the warm water cools, it sinks and a convection current is set up forcing the once cooler water to rise and, in its turn, to be warmed. The currents usually have a curved passage due to the effect of the Earth’s spin. The depth of the water and local geography will also affect the current direction and strength. Some local cureents are mainly tidal and so will change according to time of day. In the Solent we have complex tidal patterns due to the Isle of Wight and the narrowing of the English Channel.

Ian Lewis


Q

James Stone, aged 14, from Fair Oak asked:

How many species of fish are there in the Portugal submarine canyons?

A

Hi James, it’s a bit hard to answer your question because the truth is no one really knows. What we do know is that canyons are funnels for nutrients and food into the deep sea from more productive coastal areas; because of this there are higher food densities than in a typical deep sea environment, this means there are probably elevated numbers of fish in these regions. From what we know there are few specific canyons species.

I encourage you to become a marine biologist and maybe then you can find out!

Dan and Elena


Q

Rachel Lewis, aged 14, from Fair Oak asked:

What has the sediment stuff shown you so far?

A

Hi Rachel

Good question. It is difficult to be absolutely sure about the messages in the mud from the initial observations. I have just posted an article on our website ‘ So what does all this mud tell us?’ which will give an outline of how we can use the core samples. However, Prof. Phil Weaver described several further tests that will be done to the working half* of the sample, when it is returned to the labs at SOC. This involves bombarding it with gamma rays, x rays and all sorts of other things as well as doing chemical tests. These will confirm the informed guesses that the geologists are making now or they will make them think again. We have already gathered some unpredicted samples. The response to these is that we think on our feet, adjust a little and then select another sample site if necessary.

The website contains a short video clip of a trip up canyon. So far most of the general predictions have been confirmed but the devil is in the detail.

[*The other half of the sample is returned to SOC and stored, undisturbed just in case more material is needed for better tests in the future.]

Keep well and send us some more good questions.

Ian Lewis


Q

Luke A., aged 14, from Wyvern Technology College asked:

How do you work out how the canyon was formed? And how was it formed?

A

The canyons are probably very old (millions of years).  Like river canyons on land they often erode along fault lines.  Seawater laden with sediment is denser than the overlying seawater and this is similar to rivers being denser than air so they begin to erode and like river valleys they cut deeper and deeper developing meanders (sweeping bends) (see section….on the web site). 

We are trying to see how much sediment moves down the canyon as opposed to down the continental slope. We expect that there are occasional very large sediment laden currents that flow down the canyons perhaps caused by earthquakes or landslides.  By coring the sediment layers and dating each one we can determine the size and timing of each event.

Ian Lewis and the science team.


Q

Richy, Aged 14, from Portsmouth asked:

What happens if the tube you send down brakes and litters the ocean?

A

Good question!

There are very strict regulations about polluting the marine environment. Fortunately we very rarely lose any equipment and it is more likely that it gets bent or damaged.  Sometimes this gives us a lot of work to get it back onboard [click here for more information about pollution in the marine environment]

It is worth mentioning that the ship has to be very careful about all forms of pollution. On the first day we were warned about looking for even the smallest oil spillage – a few drops goes a long way over water. Should we spot any we report this and the ship’s crew have special ‘mopping up’ chemicals that they use. All of the waste produced by the ship is returned to shore to be disposed of safely. The one exception is some food waste which is cut up into small pieces and thrown overboard. This can only be done if you are beyond a certain distance from shore.

Ian Lewis and the science team.


Q

Rachel Lewis, Aged 14, from Eastleigh asked:

The sediment at the bottom of the canyon must be extreamly tightly packed together because of the pressure and build up on top of it so how do you get the tube into it?

A

This is an excellent question.

The sediment is made of grains of sand, clay, small skeletons etc. with water between them and water is not compressible.  The seabed is therefore usually muddy or sandy.  As more sediment layers build up the water in the deeper ones gradually gets expelled and these layers become much stiffer eventually turning into sedimentary rock.  This requires hundreds of metres of sediment thickness and many millions of years to accomplish.  We are able to push sediment tubes into the seabed because they have a sharp cutter at the bottom and a heavy weight of 500 to 1500 kg at the top.  Sometimes the sediment is too stiff (usually because it is sandy) and then the tube may bend giving Jez (see the pictures on the daily diary) a lot of trouble to get it back onto the deck.


Q

Kelly Rose, aged 12, from Winchester asked:

Will you be able to see Venus in Transit over the sun from where you are? My teacher says we are going to watch it during our science lesson on 8th June. It's from 0615 - 1230hrs.

A

Thanks for reminding us! We are on the fringe of the area for the observation, just into the zone where it will only be seen in the morning (weather permitting). Its been fairly cloudy so far so I’m not building up much of a tan or much hope of seeing it. However, we have our welding masks at the ready to avoid looking straight at the sun.

At night – and I get up for 0400hr watch, the sky has been obscured by cloud also so we have not seen the stars yet.

Ian and the science team


Q

Amy Brooks from the science club at Arnewood School asked:

How many times have you been sick?  are you able to eat/sleep ok?

A

The first few days were the worst, even though I was taking sea sickness tablets I was sick several times and couldn’t keep anything down. I have the memory of sitting on the floor in the toilet thinking "oh no I still have two weeks left, will this be a bigger enough emergency for the coastguard to come and save me in a helicopter?" (I was feeling a bit sorry for myself). Lying down is definitely the best way of getting over it.

Have a look at the daily diary for some pictures of me feeling sea sick.

Elena and the science team


Q

Jack Cross, aged 14 from Fair Oak asked:

Hello, have you been sea sick yet? (Miss Davidson told me to say that). How many species of fish are there in the ocean?

A

Hi Jack,

Nice to hear from you. I have been very lucky and avoided being seasick although I did feel a bit queasy for the first couple of days. Several others in the team suffered considerably but they have all recovered now,

The total number of sea fishes ranges from 15,000 to over 40,000. The reason why we don’t have an exact number is because some species have not yet been named, others can be named more than once due to poor description or variations in geographical distribution. Sometimes males and females can be very different to each other and again hard to identify as the same species. Also, there are more species as yet undiscovered, especially in the extreme marine environments such as hydrothermal vents – so all we can do is to make an informed estimate. A project called ChEss is currently researching the rtypes of creatures found at hydrothermal vents [click here to visit their website].

Keep the questions coming and get some of your lazy mates to put up a question on the web site!

Ian Lewis


Q

Mat Dodds, aged 14, from Southampton asked:

Have you seen any birds flying from the south? If so, what are they?

A

Hi Mat

Good question. We have been trying to do an hour’s observation each day to get a feel of the amount of life out here. As you can imagine it is not an easy place to get to and most things are ‘just passing through’.

Most of the seabirds we have seen have been from local breeding colonies on the Canary and Madeiran Islands. However, about a dozen Common Terns have been seen moving north on migration – these birds spend the winter off West Africa and breed in northern and western Europe, including the Hampshire coast. We have also seen a Turtle Dove about 300 km offshore that was on migration but had obviously gone off target!

At different times of the year you will see the migratory birds flying in different directions – they are seeking out breeding sites according to food availability and competition.

I hope this has answered your question. Have a look at the daily diary to see what we have done and seen.

Ian Lewis


Q

AJames Cooke, aged 12, from Wyvern Technology College asked:

Why does the sea appear green?

A

Hi James,

Thanks for the question, it has got us talking here! The sea is green near the coast due to presence of suspended particles, dissolved organic matter and marine plants, these absorb blue light and reflect green. Where we’re coring at the moment the sea is actually blue, because there are fewer nutrients and plankton.

I hope this has answered your question. Have a look at the daily diary to see what we have done and seen. Keep the questions coming and get some of your friends to send some too

Ian Lewis


Q

Emma Norgate, aged 12, from Wyvern Technology College asked:

Is this research going to be helping to keep the sea safe and unpolluted?

A

Hello Emma

This is a very good question and you are right in asking whether this sort of research can have direct benefits to our world.
Yes, many polluting chemicals stick to sediment grains and thus by tracing the route a particle of sediment takes we can see the route pollution will follow from land to the deep-sea. This will help find how polluting chemicals used on land reach the sea. By understanding this we can work out which waste materials are safe to dispose of at sea and which ones we need to find alternatives for. Some of our waste is actually quite useful to supply nutrients – as long as it is in the correct quantities.

Have a look at the daily diary for some pictures. Keep the questions coming and ask some of your friends to send us some more.

Ian Lewis and the science team


Q

Charlotte Walsh, aged 13 from Wyvern Technology College asked:

Which type of animal lives deepest in the sea?

A

Hi Charlotte

This is a good question and is not too easy to answer. You may have to check out what crustacean and mollusc mean – basically things like crabs/prawns and snails/slugs.
The deepest parts of the ocean are the trenches that can be 10,000 metres deep.  Here scientists have found flatfish similar to sole, sea anemones, bivalve molluscs, crustaceans and bristle worms.  The sea cucumber is probably the most common animal.
Have a look at the daily diary for some pictures – we’ll try to post one of a sea cucumber.

Ian Lewis and the science team


Q

Sarah Batt, aged 13, from Wyvern Technology College asked:

How many types of different wildlife are off the coast where you are researching???

A

Hi Sarah

Thanks for the question – it is an interesting one that we have planned to look into by doing one hour’s observation each day. You have to watch very carefully for any signs of life but it does mount up over a time. Binoculars are essential for identification.
Most of the wildlife we have seen so far was during our passage from the Canary Islands. Large numbers of seabirds, such as petrels and shearwaters, nest on these islands and feed in the offshore waters that are rich in food. Further north, where we are now working off Portugal, the deep ocean is less fertile and few seabirds are being seen. However, whales, dolphins and turtles often move through these waters and we have been lucky to see one Green Turtle and three giant Fin Whales that were blowing at the surface. As we move closer inshore off Portugal the sea contains more food so we should start to see a wider variety of wildlife again. 

Have a look at the daily diary for some pictures of the whales.

Keep the questions coming and ask some of your friends to send us some more.

Ian Lewis and the science team


Q

Sam Mason, aged 13, from Wyvern Technology College asked:

What depth is it at 3 miles out?

A

Hi Sam

Deep enough!

The continental shelf surrounds most land and extends from the beach to about 200 metres depth.  It is fairly flat and can be a few kilometres to a few hundred kilometres across.  The canyons can cut into this shelf almost up to the beach in which case the water could be much deeper than 200 metres just a few kilometres offshore.

The deepest water can reach over 10000m – now that’s deep!

Have a look at the daily diary for some pictures, and the website will give you more idea about how we find out what the depth is.

Ian Lewis and the science team


Q

Louise Bryan, aged 12, from Wyvern Technology College asked:

How far down into the ocean does polystryene have to go before it gets crushed???

A

Hi Louise

I have asked lots of people here the same question and there is some debate about how much it will get crushed at particular depths. Most predict that most of the crushing will occur near to the surface – but we will see. That’s why we do experiments.
We are planning to put some polystyrene cups onto the equipment.  These will get crushed as they descend through the water as the air is expelled.  We will experiment to see at which depth this happens. Keep an eye on the website for more information on this experiment!
Have a look at the daily diary for some pictures of the cruise and the equipment that we will be sending down.

Ian Lewis and the science team


Q

James, from the Arnewood School asked:

Hello, we are from the arnewood school and were wondering would it be possible for you to answer some of the followig questions: Do you have the facilities to view plankton on the boat? How many of species of whales have you come across?

A

Hi James,

We can't view plankton on board since we don’t carry any microscopes...and looking down them makes you feel very sea sick!!

The only species of cetacean (the group name for whales, porpoises and dolphins) we have seen so far have been a group of three Fin Whales and a pod of eight Striped Dolphins. Many of the large whales migrate north to spend the summer in cold, food-rich waters off northern Europe, and are only seen off southern Europe in winter. If we were on a ship off Iceland at this time of year we would see many more large whales.

Check our daily diary for more records and photos.

The science team


Q

hayley woolley and Lauren Barry from the Arnwood School asked:

How are you? How deep is the sea?  How many dolphins in a school? What is the current like out there in the sea? Have you seen any dolphins, whales or sharks? I f so what type?What is the boat like?Does it smell fishy?

A

Hi Hayley and Lauren,

We are doing great! The first few days we suffered a bit from sea sickness but it’s all over now and we’re starting with the exciting scientific work!

In the area where we’re stationed the depth is around 5,100metres. The deepest part of the ocean is the Challenger deep, which is 11 kilometres deep, enough to hide Everest with a small Alp on top.

There is a gentle current but it’s not very noticeable.

RRS Charles Darwin is about 70metres long, it was built in 1984 so as you can imagine it’s quite rusty in some areas but it contains a lot of high tech equipment. There are probably more computers than people on board! The only fish on board are the kippers for breakfast!

Dolphins are very sociable animals and usually travel around in large groups or ‘schools’. For example, the eight Striped Dolphins we saw together were an unusually small group, as this species is normally seen in large schools of up to 500 and occasionally even 3000 individual animals!

Keep the questions coming and ask some of your friends to send us some more.

Elena Fernandez Lee and the science team


Q

Talita Couto and Annebell Benion asked:

what is it like seeing all those amazing animals and creatures.e.g.whales or dolphins? What is it like to experience the varst area of the ocean and be able to study it? what is the best part of working at sea and everyday seeing and hearing the different creatures? Are there any curents and what are they- does it affect the species and amounts of fish living there?

A

Hi Girls

Many people are fascinated by whales and dolphins, probably because they are intelligent animals that live far away from human contact in a hostile environment. Dolphins always surprise me with their speed and acrobatics but it is the big whales that take my breath away. You rarely see the whole animal out of the water so it is hard to get an idea of their massive length, but I am always impressed by the sheer width of their backs as they surface to breath, which can be as wide as a bus! 
Life on board can be lonely at times, once the ship has left port there is no getting off till the next stop, and this is now two weeks away. There is a great team spirit, we’re working with very interesting people with diverse backgrounds and nationalites.

Have a look at the rest of the website and the daily diary to get a feel for this.

Keep the questions coming and ask some of your friends to send us some more.

Elena Fernandez Lee and the science team




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© Challenger Division for Seafloor Processes
April 2004
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