Blog Posts

2021 Cruise - DY130

#DY130- Amazing assemblages of amphipods

As part of the seafloor research taking place on the #DY130 PAP cruise, two sets of amphipod traps were sent to the abyss. Amphipods are a type of scavenging crustacean that play a crucial role in deep-sea food webs. They feed on food-falls like the bodies of dead marine mammals and fish that sink to the seafloor, and the amphipods themselves represent an important food source for other animals that inhabit the abyssal depths.

The traps are sent down to the seafloor containing the finest fish bait, which attract a multitude of amphipod species, of all sizes and colours (ranging from almost translucent to bright pink!). The sampling of the amphipod community at the PAP site has been ongoing since 1985. Over this time, researchers have been able to determine what the dominant species are and monitor how the community changes over time, with recent findings showing that changing environmental conditions in the atmosphere and water column above affecting the amphipods communities. Continued monitoring of these deep-sea creatures through baited traps is sure to uncover more interesting features of the PAP benthic ecosystem.

Clara Douglas

Link to recent paper:

Scavenging amphipods can strip a mackerel to the bone within 24 hours, demonstrating their effectiveness at recycling nutrients on the abyssal plain!
Checking the tethered traps

Scientists take apart a trap to remove and preserve the amphipods caught on the seafloor at 4850m depth.

@CLASS_UKRI @EMSOeu @NOCnews @bodc @AAiFADO @MetOffice @OTCCO2

2021 Cruise - DY130

#DY130 Hampshire schools get their heads in the game

As part of the PAP team commitment to outreach and STEM support, the DY130 cruise has built on a public engagement project starting with Lanes End Primary on the Isle of Wight for the DY116 cruise and expanding to work with St Johns Catholic primary in Portsmouth for the current PAP cruise DY130. Classes from year 1, 4 and 5 took part in a lively Q&A session and asked some great questions showing their potential to be future scientists. They also decorated polystyrene heads which have accompanied us during the cruise culminating with a trip to the abyssal plain on the HYBIS ROV. The children were asked to measure features of the heads and weigh them before the abyssal adventure to see how they had been changed by the experience. As well as learning about the physical effects of pressure on materials, the schools have been learning about the biological carbon pump and about the zoology of the deep ocean. The HyBIS uses a camera system to record deep sea life, of both its image and the evidence it leaves on the seabed such as burrows and trials. It’s fitting that the heads ‘watched’ the same scenes.

Nick Rundle

decorated heads on the #Whittard Canyon ADCP buoyancy
Nick hosting the Q&A
2021 Cruise - DY130

#DY130 is the first cruise for this lab technician:

I joined the NOC in August 2019 and during my first few weeks I was asked whether, if the opportunity arose, I would interested in going to sea to get involved in a cruise traveling and conducting science in both the Whittard Canyon and the Porcupine Abyssal Plain (PAP) sites. 

As with many aspects of working at sea it is a team effort to ensure our work is completed. Due to Covid I didn’t think I would be able to travel on this current research cruise DY130 however, due to the many safety protocols and government guidelines which have been put in place it was considered safe to do so.

I am working on the Benthic team during my time on Discovery on night shifts since arriving at PAP. I have assisted in sampling the sea floor, using a mega corer and recording the sea floor using a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) called HYBIS. HYBIS enables us to video the sea floor, allowing us scientists to extend our knowledge of the species which inhabit this region. This is only a small amount of the science which we on Discovery are working hard to complete. So, along with the work I am doing for the Benthic team I am helping other colleagues complete their work such as the sediment traps and Zooplankton nets, both of which have previously been featured in the PAP Blog.

Megacorer deployment

Christopher Feltham

2021 Cruise - DY130

#DY130 Exploring the abyssal seabed

The first view of the seabed is always one of the highlights of a research cruise to PAP-SO. Everyone gathers around to see the unfamiliar creatures that are briefly illuminated by the lights of the Hybis robotic underwater vehicle. Hybis is equipped with video and still cameras and we use these to explore the abyssal plain and the animals that live on and near the seabed. It is lowered on a cable nearly 5 km through the water column to just above the seafloor, giving us a real-time camera feed to screens in our on-board lab.

Hybis is controlled by a skilled team and requires coordination between the bridge, crew, technicians and scientists to navigate the planned survey lines and get high quality data for our research. As it is expertly piloted along the survey lines, Hybis takes video and still photographs of the seabed and its resident animals. We use the images to determine the number of individuals (abundance), identify the different species we see (species richness) and generate a dataset that we can use to compare with surveys taken in previous years or at other locations. By using the same method each time we visit PAP-SO we are building up a time series of data to help us understand the ecology of the abyssal plain and how it might change in future. The images below show some of the highlights from the first dive.

Launch of the Hybis robotic underwater vehicle.
The vehicle is piloted using cameras and sonar from the main lab on board Discovery
Some highlight images from the first Hybis dive on DY130. Clockwise from top left: two Oneirophanta sea cucumbers, a large Psychropotes sea cucumber, an Abyssal Grenadier, a deep-sea eel, a pycnogonid (sea spider) and a dumbo octopus.

by Dr Andrew Gates

2021 Cruise - DY130

#DY130 PAP-SO – PAP and Met Office Mobilis buoy and sensors recovered and deployed

Several days of flat calm enabled the moorings team and ships crew to recover the Mobilis buoy deployed last November on DY116. Just two days later we redeployed a new Mobilis buoy and an instrumented frame at 30m.

We’re really delighted to report that all sensors are working well and telemetering data back to NOC where colleagues are checking on progress. Thank you to Campbell Ocean Data for working through Easter weekend to support the NOC end of operation.

Our website:  will soon be showing graphs for temperature, salinity, carbon dioxide, oxygen, chlorophyll and nitrate. We also have a small nitrate analyser operating in delayed mode and we will download the data when the instrument is recovered in 2022.

We look forward to another year of exciting data thanks to the techs and ships crew who made it happen.

@CLASS_UKRI @metoffice @EMSOeu @NOCnews @bodc @AAiFADO @OTCCO2 @metofficesci

Our website:

2021 Cruise - DY130

#DY130 at the PAP-SO

We were all really happy to arrive at the PAP-SO after being kept away by bad weather. The first event here is a shallow cast where we collect water samples in Niskin bottles and measure essential ocean variables such as temperature, salinity, oxygen, carbon dioxide, pH and chlorophyll.

Here you can see the grey Niskin bottles that collect 20 litres of water and each bottle can be closed at a different depth enabling us to collect water from up to twenty-four different depths in one dip.

Back on board each Niskin bottle can be subsampled for different analysis, for example we will measure oxygen, salinity and chlorophyll on board, but will take frozen and preserved water back to NOC for nutrients and inorganic carbon measurements. As each analysis is complete we check it thoroughly before submitting it to the  British Oceanographic Data Centre where it is made available to everyone.

Here we are sampling for organic carbon which will be measured back at NOC by Dr. Ed Mawji

It takes a team of crew, technicians and scientists to achieve each data point that feeds into our growing knowledge of how earth’s oceans and climate work and change.


Our website:

2021 Cruise - DY130

#DY130 cruise at Whittard Canyon

The Discovery called at the #WhittardCanyon on the way to the PAP-SO to recover and deploy a mooring for our colleagues @MikeAClareand @VeerleHuvenne.

The mooring was deployed in November 2020 on #DY116 by Nick Rundle and the sensors and moorings team. It included a sediment trap to capture sinking particles, a microcat to measure the temperature and salinity and an ADCP which measures water movement and waterborne particles.

This is only the second time we’ve recovered the mooring and we have seen a consistent difference between the results of the sediment trap deployed here compared with the ones we have at the PAP-SO. We see a clear annual cycle at the PAP-SO which is an open ocean deep sea site, but we don’t see this at the Whittard Canyon and this shows what a very different environment the canyons are.

The Whittard Canyon provides a route for materials to be transported between the shelf and the deep ocean. We hope that the trap and data that we bring back for Mike and Veerle’s team will help them expand the picture of how this works.

@CLASS_UKRI @EMSOeu @NOCnews @bodc @AAiFADO @OTCCO2 #WhittardCanyon mooring. Our website:

2021 Cruise - DY130

#DY130 sampling starts

In the GP lab we’re set up for analysing water samples that are collected during the cruise. Here Hashan is setting up the filter rigs, he will be filtering water samples collected when we get to the PAP-SO.

We also collect and analyse samples as we sail. The underway system measures temperature, salinity and fluorescence (chlorophyll – more on that later) from an intake at about 7m below the water line. We also use this system to collect water samples.

Here we are pumping a water sample from the underway system through a small filter which collects phytoplankton – the tiny floating plants that live in the sunlit waters of all the worlds oceans. Many of these phytoplankton use chlorophyll to harness sunlight – just like plants on land. We  measure that chlorophyll to estimate how many small plants are in the water sample.

We are measuring the phytoplankton and making comparison with satellite data so that we can measure seasonality at PAP and to identify how the plankton bloom varies between the coast and out to the open ocean.

We send all of this data to the British Oceanographic Data Centre (BODC) where anyone can see it. If you would like to see previous years data, please go to the BODC website.

@CLASS_UKRI @EMSOeu @NOCnews @bodc @AAiFADO  @OTCCO2 @HHennadige

2021 Cruise - DY130

Net sampling on DY130

Sampling starts even before we reach the PAP site as we sail south and west we can collect data along the way. Here we are using nets to collect zooplankton (the tiny animals that live in the water column and are a food source of fish and many other animals, making them an important part of the ocean food web).

The ship’s crew along with NOC techs lower the net into the sea using a rope attached to a winch. Once the net is lowered over the side of the ship it descends until it reaches the depth required by scientists. Like all aspects of work at sea, it is a group effort and gives a great sense of accomplishment. These samples will be used by our NOC colleague’s investigating microplastics.

To ensure we can compare the samples fairly we follow the same process each time.

We record the location and time that the net enters the water so we can compare the samples.  The types and species of zooplankton present vary greatly with latitude and longitude because the nearer the equator the warmer the water is and we find smaller zooplankton. The nearer to land the greater the volume of nutrients and therefore more food is available, this means that we expect to find more animals.

The time the samples are collected is important because some zooplankton migrate up to shallow water to feed at night and then descend deeper into the ocean during daylight. Therefore we see a greater number and range of animals at night.

Once back at the surface, on the ship, the net is rinsed and emptied into a clean bucket. The sample is then preserved to allow scientists at the NOC to analyse the sample on our return.

Christopher Feltham. @CLASS_UKRI@EMSOeu@NOCnews@bodc@AAiFADO  @OTCCO2

2021 Cruise - DY130, Uncategorized

DY130 cruise is in full swing with sediment traps

Onboard the Discovery we’re working to get everything prepared before we arrive at the PAP-SO  early next week. Here Christopher Feltham is attaching bottles of preservative to the sediment traps. These will be deployed at depths of 2500m, 3000m and 4750m in the NE Atlantic. The traps collect and preserve sinking particles, each bottle is open for a set period of time to provide a year round picture of marine snow fall. When analysed back at NOC, this shows us how much carbon is sinking from surface waters to the ocean interior and onto the seafloor where it is removed from the atmosphere for thousands of years.

Three of these traps are bound for the PAP-SO and one to #WhittardCanyon where NOC colleagues @VeerleHuvenne and @MikeAClare are collecting evidence of down canyon particle flows. They found some really exciting data in 2020 and we’re looking forward to seeing what they find this time.

@CLASS_UKRI @EMSOeu @NOCnews @bodc @AAiFADO  @OTCCO2 #WhittardCanyon mooring.

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