JR157: Seabed biology of Marguerite Bay, Antarctica


About the cruise...

Seabed biology of Marguerite Bay, western Antarctic Peninsula

James Clark Ross Cruise JR 157, 7 January 2007 – 1 February 2007


The Antarctic marine continent is one of the last, relatively un-impacted, environments on the globe. In spite of this it is evident that this continent and the surrounding seas are undergoing rapid and dramatic changes associated with climate change. The shallow seas around Antarctica are one of the most biologically diverse ecosystems on earth.  Even in this biodiverse system however, particular groups of animals are notable by their presence (sea spiders and sponges) or absence (higher crustaceans). In all cases, because of the extreme low temperature of surface waters, the average growth rate is very slow. Consequently any physical impact on these seabed communities is extremely long-lived. One of the most common impacts within the top 600 m is iceberg scour, which is caused when icebergs that have carved from the main Antarctic ice sheets strike the bottom of the seabed. In shallow waters icebergs have been identified as a main structuring feature of the seabed communities.

The Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) Isis

Below 600-700 m however, we know almost nothing about the seabed communities that inhabit bathyal (to 2000 m) and abyssal (below 2000 m) depths. We do not know the typical sorts of communities that exist at these depths, the impacts that drive the structure of communities, or how quickly these communities are responding to climate change associated effects in shallow waters.

In this cruise on the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) research vessel James Clark Ross we will use the deep-sea remotely operated vehicle (ROV Isis) to survey the deep seabed communities in Marguerite Bay, located at 68o south and west of the Antarctic Peninsula. Three transects will be surveyed between 600 and 3500 m using a combination of digital video and stills photography. Samples will also be collected using the ROV manipulator arms. These animals will be brought to the surface and will be used to investigate the evolutionary links between the deep-sea Antarctic species and species that are more common in temperate and tropical deep-sea environments.

We will meet the ship at the Falkland Islands and first travel to the Antarctic Peninsula to re-supply the BAS field station at Rothera. Once the cruise has been completed we will return to Rothera and disembark. After a planned short stop on the Antarctic continent we will fly out to Punta Arenas in Chile before flying home.

Gigantism in the cold, an Antarctic sea spider (top) compared to a European species (bottom).

Iceberg (image courtesy of BAS)

James Clark Ross re-supplying the BAS Rothera base (image courtesy of BAS)

DASH 7 aircraft used to fly from the Antarctic to Chile (Image courtesy of BAS)

Home -



Latest news

Have your say
For teachers
Contact us

October 2006
Contact the web editor