JC010: Mud volcanoes and submarine canyons


Cruise diary

Day 13: Tuesday 3 July 2007
Position: 48o 20.110N  10o 09.862W  Whittard Canyon (Google Earth reference: 48 20’11”N 10 09’86”W)
Weather: Sunny with light cloud

Richard writes:

"Fact 1: The Whittard canyon is 250km long – half the length of the Grand Canyon.

Fact 2:  The Whittard Canyon is 4000m deep – 2.5 times deeper than the Grand Canyon

I guess it goes without saying that the Colorado River obviously doesn’t supply as much water to the Grand Canyon as the Whittard Canyon holds… 

It is great to now be on location at the Whittard Canyon, after having had to put it off for a while due to the bad weather. I didn’t know much about it before at all, but some of what the scientists are telling me is starting to stick in my mind – the facts above are truly amazing aren’t they? To think that there are places underwater at least as spectacular as some of the world’s best known natural wonders and that they are just starting to be explored now is remarkable. I still go to my shift every day thinking that it is amazing to be involved in such a project – as I am sure you have heard many times before we know more about the surface of the moon than we do about the deep seas. Hopefully expeditions like this will start to redress the balance..."

Tina writes:

"Happy doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt today when these dolphins joined the ship for a brief time. They stayed by us for about 5 minutes playing in the surf produced by the movement of the ship.  The hourglass patterning on their side means they were common dolphins.

Right: Common dolphins playing in the ship's bow wave
(photo Wouter Willems)

Later I was given the opportunity to fly the ROV.  I took the controls as it was descending between 1,000m and 2,000m. Dave Edge, the ROV Engineer taught me what controls to use and when.  How to control spin, my rate of descent and movement forward/backwards and to the sides while watching my rate of descent and position under the ship. Wow!

Right: Tina at the controls of the ROV

Today’s scientific thought

Recently I was asked “Where are we?”. To be honest I thought that was obvious: “at sea” - duh!!!!!!

Then I was made to feel about an inch tall as the seafaring scientist next to me said “well, we are at 39o 30N’, but we are heading for 41 o 15’N ”.  

The question came back to him (obviously not me) so how long do you think it will take to get there? Well I was stumped – but he was not, a bit of thought and he said about 10 and a half hours.

Well I was stumped – but he was not, a bit of thought and he said about 10 and a half hours.


How did he do it?

Imagine you draw a line around the Earth through the North and South Pole and then back again to the North Pole. This line is called the Meridian.

Now divide the line into 360 sections: 180 on this side and 180 on the other.   Each section is called a degree. 

Now divide the degree into 60 sections and call these minutes. Each minute is 1 Nautical mile and one degree is 60 Nautical miles.

39o 30’N  means 39 degrees and 41 minutes North above the equator.

You always count degrees from above the middle of your line (the equatorial line).

So, to travel from 39o 30’ to 41o 15' we cover a distance equal to 1o 45’ .

1o is 60 nautical miles and 45’ is 45 nautical miles so in total we had to go 105 miles. Since the ship travels at about 10 nautical miles per hour (10 knots) travelling 105 nautical miles would take about 10.5 hours.


Now find out what a nautical mile is.

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