Article by Jozee Sarrazin & Marjolaine Matabos, Ifremer
The MoMARSAT2022 cruise, which took place on 6-27 June 2022 aboard the French research vessel Pourquoi pas?, successfully carried out its annual pilgrimage to the Lucky Strike vent field on northern Mid-Atlantic Ridge to carry out maintenance on the EMSO-Azores deep-sea observatory.
Despite a few Covid cases on board, the team once again ensured the turnaround of the full platform and sensor array, enabling the start of another year of data acquisition! The team of 30 scientists from Ifremer, CNRS (IPGP, GET, MIO, LPO), University of Western Brittany (UBO) and University of the Azores worked together during 15 dives with the submersible Nautile to achieve the substantial sampling plan that is paramount to the long-term monitoring of the vent field. The MoMARSAT expedition programme has been visiting the site annually since 2010.
In order to reduce our environmental footprint on the seafloor, on this year’s expedition a collaboration with the submersible and ship crew enabled the development of new procedures to limit the amount of weights left on the seafloor. Instead of using free-fall elevators that release 500 kg of weights on the bottom, a few were deployed using the deep-sea cable. Additionally, one dive was dedicated to retrieving lost weights using the Nautile and the ship’s deep-sea cable. This procedure will be conducted again during future cruises to the site.
As ever, expedition progress was documented through the MoMARSAT Facebook page, where you can find more detailed information of our scientific and technological achievements.
The presence of a cartoonist on board throughout the cruise helped reinforce the team spirit between everyone onboard. Through hundreds of illustrations, artist Damien Roudeau described and shared the adventures of scientists, pilots and crew members working together towards the common objective of enhancing our knowledge of deep-sea ecosystems. Based on this month-long journal, a comic book story will be created (for publication at the end of 2024) to embody the scientific, environmental and financial stakes involved in the quest for rare earth elements and strategic minerals through this mission. This journey was initiated several years ago by Ifremer researchers Marjolaine Matabos and Jozee Sarrazin during a conversation with N. Le Roy, a seaman working on the Pourquoi pas? who was concerned about environmental issues related to the sea. Take a look at the @Momarsat Instagram to see a sketch overview of the cruise.
The EMSO-Azores observatory is part of the One Ocean Network for Deep Observation action of Ifremer endorsed by the UN Ocean Decade programme.