JC010: Mud volcanoes and submarine canyons


Question time!

The cruise has now finished so our Q&A facility is no longer active....
but you can still read the questions we received - and the team's answers - below


What new animals have you found? Was it a fun thing to do and have you got any pics you can show me please?



Hi Claire,

Thank you for the question. Yesterday, when the ISIS was under the water, we could see through its camera what was going on the seabed. We saw a sort of different animals. There are a few that the experts on board haven’t recognized. They don’t know what exactly they are. See what is going on under the sea is really fun! As soon as possible we will attach some pictures onto the Diary. As the cruise progresses I am sure we will see more especially over and around Darwin.


Is it hard to use ISIS - do you use joysticks - or gamepads? How deep can it go? do you see many fish?

Alex Lewis, Aged 9, Isle of Man


Hi Alex,

Thanks for the question. Using the ISIS is very hard and complicated. Fortunately, we have some expert technicians here that can manage it! They use computers and a little reproduction of the mechanical arms. Have you seen them in the Diary? They also have joysticks, and they use them to move the ISIS and for taking pictures! The ISIS can work in water depths down to 6500m. While the ISIS is under the water, we can see many fishes of different colors! My favorite one is the Blue mouth, it is so nice!


Is it really rough on boat?  Do you get sea sick?
What things have you pulled up from the sea?
How do you get the things up from the bottom on the sea?
How do you get down to the bottom of the sea to take the pictures?

Love from Harry
Harry Thomas Baker, aged 7, Oxfordshire


Hi Harry,

Thanks for the questions. Life, at first was really rough. We had strong gale force 8 winds which whipped up the waves! After a week, we got used to it. When you are a first-timer sailor, it is better you take some anti sea-sickness pills, otherwise you can feel bad. Fortunately, the pills did their job! What things have we pulled from the sea? Well, we have pulled a lot of sediments and fragments of rocks. We use the mechanical arms of the ISIS to get the things up from the seabed. The ISIS is really useful, it also can make pictures and films! We use corers too to get things from the seabed on big winches.


Hello miss, how are you on the boat? How do fish breathe underwater?

Tom Wigg and Jack Whitby, aged 14


Hi Tom and Jack,

Good to hear from you both. Thanks for asking. I am great and having a very interesting time here on the RRS James Cook and hoping you are working hard on the competition. Fish need oxygen for respiration, just like most living things we recognize, to get their energy, (although there are many organisms like bacteria and a new kingdom I only just found out about from one of the scientists called ARCHAEA). There is oxygen dissolved in the water and they use gills to extract it, which are protected by gill flaps or the operculum. The fish gulp water and it flows over the gills which are made of filaments. Just like the alveoli they are closely associated with blood capillaries. The oxygen diffuses into the blood and it is pumped around the body! It is interesting to look at this when you have trout for dinner.

Keep the questions coming boys!


If a deep sea organism is brought to the surface will the organism explode or expand due to the decrease in pressure outside of the organism or will nothing happen?

Sam Callaway, aged 13, Downs School


Nice to hear from you Sam. Thanks for the question. I expect you are thinking what happens if you compress the air and then release the pressure. Well it is not that straightforward really. Many animals migrate up and down the water column; think of sharks for instance. Fish that have swim bladders, which are organs inside them containing air, may not be able to cope with large pressure differences too well but they are often well adapted to changes in pressure so it is not always the case. They are more susceptible to temperature differences so if any are captured, say for an aquarium so they can be studied, they are carefully kept in a seawater container at the correct temperature on the ascent. If you have any further questions on this please mail them in.


Has anyone been sea sick?

Saeed Younus, Streatley


Hello Saeed. Yes I think some people were quite unwell at first as we hit a gale force 8 which whips up the waves. At first you feel quite tired and headachy, but this can then go on into vomiting etc! Not very nice. The only thing to do is go to bed for a while and rest. Luckily I brought some seasickness pills with me which made me feel a bit weird but better than feeling sick. Actually at one point there were only 4 people left in the lounge and the rest were in their cabins! Once you get your sealegs though it is fine; apparently you feel strange when you get back on land. I will let you know.


I would like to congratulate you on the quality and interest of your blogs. One of the prime objectives of the James Cook is to fire the enthusiasm of our young people for science and perhaps to persuade them to pursue it as a career.

I see from other data from the ship that you have tasted some of the worst weather for a ship of this size but you have survived and are now enjoying the excitement of searching the depths and seeing things that nobody else has ever seen. Watch out for the animal life which can be really fascinating in terms of the evolutionary process even for an engineer like myself.

Please give my best wishes to all my friends on  board - I am delighted that the ship is beginning to reveal her great potential.

The food is brilliant but be careful not to eat five meals a day!

Best regards and keep up the good work

Robin Williams, age 66, Barry (South Wales)


Hello Robin

Thanks for your comments. Phil and Dave Edge were pleased to hear from you and said it may be interesting to ask you about the process behind ship procurement if you have the time.

The ship is great and the science going on onboard is fascinating. I am glad you like the blog. It is always good to have feedback.

By the way, Colin Day wants his boots back!


Can you explain what you hope to learn from the different experiments- ie what are the main aims of the research?


Will, London


Hi Will

Thanks for the question. It is a good one! There are several teams on board all investigating different aspects of the ocean floor. One group are looking at the chemistry of the sediments taken from the cores; one group are looking at the microbiology of the sediment – bacteria; one group are looking at the unique ecosystems – different types of animals. All of them are using the Isis which is a remotely operated vehicle – an undersea robot, and cores of the sediment.  Why? The ocean is vast and as yet we don’t know enough about it. How can we use this information? So that we can predict geohazards – tsunamis, earthquakes etc,; to find out about unknown ecosystems and the animals that inhabit them-some sponges have chemicals in them that can be used in medicine for instance which chemists can copy on land and who knows what else may be down there?; also if we do exploit the ocean for oil extraction, cable laying and fishing to determine how it can be done in a careful, sustainable way avoiding the destruction of precious resources which is what is happening in some places at the moment.


How unique is this particular type of volcano?

Laura, London


Hi Laura

Well each volcano, if effect, has its own personality which is determined by the type of sediment and gases bubbling through it, the type of bacteria in the sediment and the processes going on under the volcano itself. In turn it has its own ecosystem around it with different animals inhabiting it. So the answer to the question is that each one is unique and we are studying them to find out more about them. Hope this answers your question.


How deep is the water below the boat?  How long does it take the ISIS to get to the bottom of the seafloor.
How do the animals in the deepest depths of the water find their way around?  I think that they don't need eyes because it is too dark for them to see anything down there.
How long did it take to repair the ISIS?
How could the ISIS see anything down under the water?  Does the ISIS have lights on, is that how it sees in the deepest darkest depths of the water?
We like the pictures that you have taken to show us what is happening.

Harry Thomas Baker, Aged 7, Oxfordshire


Hello Harry

  • Where we are at the moment is 420m but when we go to the next volcano called Darwin it is at 1100m but even deeper is a volcano called Carlos Riberos at 2200m.
  • How deep it is determines how long it takes Isis to get down. Here it is only about 45 minutes but when it is deeper it takes longer than that.
  • The Isis is connected to the ship by a long cable that has electricity running along it and a cable that can be used to send images back to the boat. It has cameras and lights on the front so it can see even though it is really dark.
  • Light can still penetrate even as far down as 1000m so it is still worth having eyes until that point. However after that you often get animals that glow in the dark to attract each other this is called bioluminescence. Hopefully we will see some of these.
  • They can find their way around by using chemical receptors which pick up smells sometimes from a very long way away like sharks.
  • Glad you like the pictures; more to come.


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