Blog entry by Luis Greiffenhagen and Lisa Skein
JC237 is leaving the dock and is off to Whittard Canyon!
After four days of quarantine and mobilisation, everyone is onboard, all our equipment arrived and we are ready to go! The next four weeks are fully packed with interdisciplinary research missions.
Although everyone was really busy getting all the equipment ready, we still had time for some interesting talks – Josh Tate from JNCC gave us an introduction to the Canyons MPA (Marine Protected Area), which is England’s only MPA that contains cold-water coral reefs. Since June 2022 it is protected from fishing activities, so this is a great opportunity to collect some data for point 0.
Also, he developed a very helpful species guide for the area that will be very helpful once we get the ROV running and will sight our first live footage.
Luis Greiffenhagen gave a presentation of his research on coral walls with the University of Edinburgh. While he focused on Norwegian fjords, we have similar species and seabed morphology in Whittard Canyon, and we talked about how vertical coral reefs are still often underrepresented in deep sea coral research.
Also, we heard about the research on marine canyons in South Africa from Lisa Skein, SANBI (South African National Biodiversity Institute). Alongside with very interesting facts about the prehistoric coelacanth that was re-discovered in this area, we learnt about the diversity and conservation of marine canyons across the four (!) marine ecoregions off the vast coast of South Africa.
Finally, Esther Sumner (University of Southampton) introduced us to her research on dynamics of seafloor sediment avalanches. She showed us how we will use cores and sediment traps from mooring buoys on our cruise to better understand these processes, which can impact human infrastructure. She made an amazing illustration of it (see below).
Besides that, we could still exercise on the quayside, get to know each other (still with masks on though) and our PI, Veerle Huvenne, was able to give us introductions on how the next four weeks will look like. We already divided the science team into two groups that will each work for 12 hour shifts: 4am to 4pm and 4pm to 4am. In this way, everybody has some part of the night to rest and the operations call still run 24hrs per day.
The ship is leaving around 11am on Saturday and we expect a 40-42 hours transit to Whittard Canyon. Once the ship is on its way, Susan Evans (NOC) will already deploy the Continuous Plankton Recorder from the MBA CPR Survey and the shipboard multibeam echosounder will be switched on. We will also get an introduction to the ROV and run a safety drill on the way out.
You will hear from us once we reached our famous study site!