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Cruises

Classroom@Sea is not just about the science carried out on board our cruises. Life on board a research vessel is an exciting experience, but the environment is very different to life at home. In this section you can follow the progress of cruises past and present, see what's planned for the future, and also find out more about the research ships, how they operate and what it's like to live and work on board.

From the Archive:

JR239: Exploring the deep water of the Weddell Sea 19th March 2010 - 19th March 2010

On March, the 19th 2010, the RRS James Clark Ross will set sail from Montevideo, Uruguay, in the direction of the Antarctic Peninsula and the Northern Weddell Sea. This cruise will combine two sections in one cruise. The first section completes a section that was done in January 2009 as part of the project entitled: Antarctic Deep Water Rater of Export (ANDREX). The second section which starts from inside the Weddell Sea and goes north to South Georgia is a section that the British Antarctic Survey intends to repeat annually.

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James Cook explores the East Scotia Ridge for life at black smokers 7th January 2010 - 21st February 2010

RRS James CookThis James Cook expedition to the Southern Ocean will be looking at the animals that live at hot water vents and cold methane seeps along the mid-ocean ridge. These animals live in chemosynthetic systems without the need for sunlight. The types of animals found vary from ocean to ocean. The Scotia Seas of the Southern Ocean link the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean.

What will the scientists find on the East Scotia Ridge? The giant tubeworms only found previously in the Pacific? Or the shrimps that populate the vent sites of the Atlantic? High definition cameras on the deep-diving ROV Isis will provide the answers.

RRS James Cook JC35: Surveying the Whittard Canyon 7th June 2009 - 19th June 2009

On 7 June 2009, the RRS James Cook set sail for research cruise JC035 from Vigo (N. Spain) in the direction of the Whittard Canyon on the Celtic Margin. Whittard is one of several large deep-sea canyons that cut the continental slope in this part of the Bay of Biscay. The canyons provide a pathway (and/or sink) for the transport of sediments, particles and organic matter from the shelf to the deep sea. In addition, they form a particular environment on their own, due to the large morphological heterogeneity and the unusual current regimes. The result is a large variety of faunal associations and habitats, which will be studied during the follow-on cruise JC036.

JC31: The Ingredients of the Southern Oceans 3rd February 2009 - 3rd March 2009

Aerial shot of RRS James CookOn 3 February 2009 the RRS James Cook will sail from Punta Arenas, Chile to embark upon the first of two consecutive research cruises (JC31 and JC32).  During JC31 the ship will be home to a group of scientists who will measure different properties of the ocean in Drake Passage.  Drake Passage is the narrowest stretch of water in the Southern Ocean, spanning approximately 500 miles between the southern tip of South America and the West Antarctic Peninsula.  The scientific party will have a range of specialties such as measuring dissolved oxygen and nutrient concentrations, chlorofluorocarbons, carbon, atmospheric analyses and also physical measurements of the ocean such as temperature, salinity and water velocity.

JR224: Chemosynthetic life on the Scotia Ridge 12th January 2009 - 18th February 2009

This research cruise on board the British Antarctic Survey ship the RRS James Clark Ross is attempting to explore areas of the deep seabed of the Southern Ocean to locate and investigate hot water vents (hydrothermal vents) and cold seeps.  Vents and seeps have already been found in the Pacific (in 1977), Atlantic (1984), Indian (2000) and in the Arctic Ocean (2001). Scientists have discovered that these deep, cold and highly toxic systems are home to many bizarre animals.  They have also noticed that some of the most dominant animals in one vent or seep habitat may differ significantly from another vent or seep.  For example, the giant tubeworms, Riftia pachyptilla, are found in some Pacific vents but have never yet been found to live around vents in the Atlantic, Indian or Arctic Oceans. 

D334: Monitoring ocean currents in the Atlantic 27th October 2008 - 24th November 2008

If you follow a straight line west from the UK across the Atlantic you’ll notice that you end up in northeastern Canada – notorious for cold, bleak winters (see map, right). Why, then, do we not get similar weather in the UK? Well, firstly because there is a large body of water – the Atlantic – directly to our west. Most of our winds flow over the water which acts to warm the air, particularly in winter. But this effect is enhanced by the fact that this water is warmer than it ought to be – thanks to a system of ocean currents known together as the Atlantic Overturning Circulation. This system includes the well known ‘Gulf Stream’ which flows north along the eastern coast of the United States before peeling off into the north Atlantic (see diagram below). Below the surface, colder water travels south and whole system is sometimes referred to as the Atlantic Heat Conveyor.

RRS James Clark Ross JR211: Gas hydrates and climate change in the Arctic 23rd August 2008 - 24th September 2008

The RRS James Clark Ross is working in Arctic waters west of Svalbard (80ºN) to investigate the presence of gas hydrate (methane gas trapped in water ice) in the seafloor sediments, and the occurrence of methane gas venting as a result of these hydrates breaking down. This cruise is part of the IPY project 'Dynamics of gas hydrates in polar environments', funded by the UK's Natural Envieronment Research Countcil and involving scientists from NOCS, University of Birmigham and Royal Holloway University of London. For more information aobut the project, please go to the project website

JC10: HERMES ROV Showcase Cruise 14th May 2007 - 7th June 2007

In May 2007 NERC's new research vessel, the RRS James Cook, set sail for an 8-week scientific expedition to visit some of Europe's most exciting submarine landscapes as part of the HERMES research project. Equipped with the ROV Isis, the trip was be split into three parts: the first leg investigated the fascinating mud volcanoes in the Gulf of Cadiz, where fluids, gases and mud ooze out from volcano-shaped features on the seafloor. The ship then cruised northwards to the vast Portuguese canyons to continue our work on understanding how they transport sediment from the coast to the deep sea and how this affects biological communities in the canyons. Finally, the James Cook continued northwards to the Whittard Canyon offshore SW Ireland, where it carried out a number of experiments to see how active the canyon is, and what lives down there. We knew very little about this canyon, so it was a journey of discovery!

RRS James Cook JC24: Dating volcanoes on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge 23rd May 2008 - 28th June 2008

This cruise on bpoard the RRS James Cook is attempting to answer one of the fundamental questions of marine geology: how fast does the crust grow?  60% of the Earth’s surface is covered by oceanic crust, which is formed at mid-ocean ridges as tectonic plates separate.  Studies of magnetic stripes – which record the episodic reversing of the Earth’s magnetic poles – tell us that, on the northern Mid-Atlantic Ridge, the crust grows at an average of just over 1 cm (about half an inch) per year.  But is this a steady rate, or does it grow in fits and starts?

RRS James Cook JC007: Drilling the Mid-Atlantic Ridge 5th March 2007 - 12th April 2007

Mid-ocean ridges are a fascinating component of our planet's armour plating. Mid-ocean ridges are the place where new oceanic crust is born, with red-hot lava spewing out along the spreading axis as seafloor spreading progresses. However, the mechanisms by which this occurs are still not well understood by scientists - hardly surprising when you consider that mid-ocean ridges are located thousands of metres below the surface of the ocean.

RRS James Clark Ross JR161: Food webs in the Antarctic 23rd October 2006 - 2nd December 2006

JR161 aboard the RRS James Clark Ross (JCR) is the first of a series
of three cruises to the Scotia Sea to study food-wed dynamics in Antarctica

RRS James Clark Ross JR157: Seabed biology of Marguerite Bay, Antarctica 9th January 2007 - 1st 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.

CD179: Deep-sea biology of the Portuguese canyons 16th April 2006 - 16th May 2006

HERMES D297: Portuguese Margin cruise 27th July 2005 - 16th August 2005

Cruise D297, aboard the RRS Discovery (right), will visit the vast submarine canyon system offshore Portugal. Last summer our other research vessel, the RRS Charles Darwin, visited the area to take sediment cores through the mud at the bottom of the canyons on cruise CD157. This year, the scientific team plan to continue the research here by investigating the biology of the canyons, as well as the geological process active in this area. They will begin by towing a camera along the canyon floor to see what lives on the seabed. Based on what they see from the camera, they will then take a range of different samples of the seabed to look at the creatures in more detail. This research is being carried out as part of a new EC-funded research programme called HERMES, which is investigating how different ecosystems on the seafloor around Europe work in relation to their surrounding environment.

UK-TAPS CD166: Madeira/Morocco cruise 26th November 2004 - 21st November 2004

On Oct 26th 2004 an international team of marine scientists will leave Lisbon for the start of a new research cruise on the British ship, RRS Charles Darwin (left). The scientific team, representing the UK, Spain, Germany, Russia, Greece, Italy and Portugal, will be led by SOC's Chief Scientist Russell Wynn and University of Aberdeen's co-Chief Scientist Dr Bryan Cronin.

EUROSTRATAFORM CD157: Portuguese Margin Cruise 28th May 2004 - 13th June 2004

Cruise CD157, aboard the RRS Discovery, will visit the Nazare submarine canyon offshore Portugal. Last summer our other ship, the RRS Charles Darwin, visited the area to take sediment cores through the mud at the bottom of the canyon. This year, the scientific team plan to continue their research here by towing a camera along the canyon floor to see what lives on the seabed. Based on what they see from the camera, they will then take samples of the seabed to look at the creatures in more detail.

Carlsberg Ridge Cruise 18th July 2003 - 6th August 2003

The Carlsberg Ridge is situated in the northern Indian Ocean, between Africa and the Seychelle Islands. The map to the right shows the area as if the sea has been removed. Dark blue indicates deep sea areas, with shallower areas showing up as light blue. Land is gr

een. You can see that the mid ocean ridge stands proud of the seafloor around it, and is cut by linear features known as transform faults. Click on the map to see a larger version.

The NERC research ship, RRS Charles Darwin (pictured below), will set sail from Port Victoria in the Seychelles on 18th July, and will return to the same port on August 7th. During the cruise, the ship will sail along the axis of the Carlsberg Ridge to allow scientists to take samples from different places on the ridge.

 

EUROSTRATAFORM Portuguese Margin Seafloor survey cruise 5th November 2003 - 28th November 2003


The Portuguese Margin cruise is the key cruise for the Classroom@Sea project, when our two teachers, Elena and Ian, will be joining the scientific team aboard RRS Charles Darwin (left). During the cruise we will be investigating the geology and biology of the submarine canyons located offshore Portugal, using a variety of scientific techniques including sediment coring, seafloor imaging using sonar, seafloor videos, biological sampling and seismic surveying. This work is being carried out as part of a large EC-funded research programme called EUROSTRATAFORM which involves scientists from all over Europe.

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