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This year was supposed to be very special for the MoMARSAT annual cruise, celebrating ten years of data flowing from the 1700 m deep hydrothermal vent field Lucky Strike! Originally planned for July 2020, the remaining scientific party and ship crew boarded the French research vessel Pourquoi Pas? on 4 September in Toulon (France) after 10 days of quarantine in a remote nearby countryside hotel. After 2 COVID tests and a 7-day transit to the Mid-Atlantic Ridge off the Azores, they will finally be ready for a short mission dedicated to the maintenance of the EMSO-Azores observatory, a non-cabled multidisciplinary observatory devoted to the long term integrated study of mid-ocean ridge processes, from the subsea floor to the water column.
The MoMARSAT 2020 oceanographic campaign is jointly carried out by Ifremer and the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris (IPGP-CNRS / INSU). This cruise is part of a long series that started in 2010 with the deployment of the EMSO-Azores observatory at the Lucky Strike vent field located within the Azores Marine Protected Areas. Every year since then, a maintenance cruise to the site is carried out to ensure the good functioning of the observatory: the two sea monitoring nodes (seamon) are brought up to the surface where the engineering team download large volumes of data from the instruments, which are then cleaned, checked, repaired if needed, and set-up for another year of observations!
The observatory aims at understanding how geophysical, geochemical and hydrodynamics factors control the circulation, flux and distribution of hydrothermal fluid and how these processes structure the associated biodiversity, from microorganisms to megafauna. Annual visits also allows ancillary sampling and experimental studies which contribute to increasing the spatial footprint of the observatory and help to characterise the natural temporal variability of vent systems, the functioning of the ecosystem and their resilience to natural or anthropogenic disturbances.
This year, the cruise is shorter because of the heavy health and safety protocol, and the scientific team was downsized, but we are confident the observatory will be up and running for another year. Some of the work that will be conducted by iAtlantic participants include the recording of video transects of the Eiffel Tower edifice. This imagery dataset will be turned into a 3D reconstruction of the edifice that will add to a long series of reconstruction to better understand the environmental drivers of biodiversity patterns over time (WP2 and WP3).
Follow the cruise on our facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/CampagneMomarsat !
Written by the EMSO-Azores team at the deep-sea lab, Ifremer
Belgica Mound province: ROV (photogrammetry), ROV multibeam, lander deployment
Lampau Canyon: High resolution seabed mapping of the canyon and vertical walls. Postponed to 2021 due to COVID-19 (dates TBC)
Metal geochemistry meets machine learning: Assessing sedimentary and pore-water rare earth element variability from local to basin scale across the NE Atlantic Ocean (Metal-ML). Working in international waters: Porcupine Abyssal Plain to Mid-Atlantic Rise; sampling on a profile between 48°N 30’ / 12°W and 43°N / 28°W; cruise starts and ends in Emden.
A systematic, multi-scale sampling and analysis for geochemistry and seafloor features across the North East Atlantic deep sea. A spatially hierarchical sampling scheme – from local, via regional, to basin-scale – will be applied to map the heterogeneity of benthic geochemical solid-phase and pore-water composition and seafloor substrate types along a transect crossing the NE Atlantic Ocean from the Porcupine Abyssal Plain (PAP) via the Central Western European Basin (CWEB) to the Mid-Atlantic Rise (MAR). At sampling stations, a hierarchical surveying scheme will be employed to acquire data at multiple resolutions and spatial coverage – from km-scale down to cm-scale. Multibeam maps provide the survey area overviews. Towed camera observations link those maps with the meter-scale distribution of benthic habitats and seafloor substrate types. Seafloor sampling with a TV-multicorer will provide point samples for major and trace elements. Basic geochemical composition (nutrients, TOC, trace metals) of the sediment will be measured, followed by a systematic evaluation of REY heterogeneity in sediments and pore waters across the oceanic basin. This includes concentration measurements and comparing shale-normalized patterns from local to basin scale and in relation to topography. Sampling targets the visible seafloor surface as well as depth profiles for the upper ca. 30 cm to identify dominating geochemical processes in the surface sediments.
Machine Learning will be applied at sea and post-cruise to link the separate data domains. First, automated image analysis will be applied at sea to extract quantitative semantic information from OFOS imagery. Secondly, during the evaluation phase, image-derived seafloor characteristics will be linked to cm-scale geochemical surface sampling results. This extrapolates geochemical measurements to meter-scale observations of substrates and habitats. Third, habitat mapping links the automatically computed camera observations with km-scale hydro-acoustics. This allows extrapolating meter-scale observations from images to regional maps. During the cruise, we will conduct the data acquisition and analysis within the framework of current marine digitalisation and research projects. Physical samples will be identified by IGSNs for long-term provenance documentation. Data will be acquired and processed towards complete open-access publication according to workflows developed in the DAM and MareHub working groups. Bathymetry will be acquired to complement the efforts of the iAtlantic project, and the DAM Bathymetry working group and will thus provide input for the GEBCO 2030 project.
Porcupine Abyssal Plain (PAP site): Time-series sampling, coring, OTSB trawl, towed camera, benthic photographic lander deployments.
Cruise report available at: https://www.bodc.ac.uk/resources/inventories/cruise_inventory/reports/dy103.pdf
Reykjanes Ridge: volcanology of ridge, hydrothermal systems, hydrothermal and regional ecosystems, ROV and AUV sampling
The IceAGE3 expedition, carried out as part of the IceAGE project, will use the latest marine technology to explore, map and sample a variety of deep-sea ecosystems, ranging from spectacular cold-water coral gardens on the Icelandic shelf, to the chemical-dependent fauna of hydrothermal vents at the mid-Atlantic ridge, and the myriad of creatures that are adapted to inhabit the deep ocean. The overall aim is to understand better the connections between the different habitats and ecosystems found within the Atlantic around Iceland.
Key areas of investigation include better understanding of the genetic, morphological, and environmental patterns in Atlantic ecosystems and habitats, and the correlation and relationships between them. Larger issues under investigation are related to the different Atlantic water masses: the deep waters around Iceland include boreal, subarctic, and Arctic zones that hold discrete bodies of water, which allow scientists to compare the deep-sea ecosystems that are found in different locations. How much variation exists between basins in the deep sea? Is there gene flow between deep-sea basins? Do we see the same patterns in the deep sea and the continental shelf?
After leaving port in Emden on 22 June 2020, the RV Sonne will travel northwards to the Norwegian Basin, where the team will start their sampling in waters more than 4000 m deep. Cruising towards the gradually shallower waters of the Icelandic shelf (up to 800 m water depth), the team will explore the habitats and inhabitants of the abyssal plain, including cold-water coral gardens that are expected to be seen along the thermocline in approximately 900 m water depth. The team will use multibeam bathymetric mapping to make a detailed map of the seafloor, before using the Remotely Operated Vehicle ROV Kiel 6000 to dive down and explore targeted areas – the ROV is equipped with high-definition cameras, and we hope to livestream footage from the seafloor back to scientists and colleagues back on land.
Next, we will cross the Iceland-Faroe Ridge to fill in the gaps in a map of a large coral reef known as “Lóndsjúp”, located on the shelf break south of Iceland, and also revisit some sample locations from previous expeditions. From here, the ship will continue along the Reykjanes Ridge – the portion of the mid-Atlantic Ridge just south of Iceland – to find and investigate the hydrothermal vent site that IceAGE scientists expect to find there from looking at existing mapping data.
Finally, for the third and final part of the expedition, RV Sonne will sail southwards into gradually deeper waters, examining the changes in conditions and ecosystems along the way, finishing in the Iceland Basin at more than >4500m water depth.
The RV Sonne is home to a team of 34 German participants, who have responsibility for making sure the ROV and other equipment is working well. The expedition is led by deep-sea biologist Dr Saskia Brix, who is based at Institute SENCKENBERG am Meer (German Center for Marine Biodiversity Research, DZMB). With her and the Senckenberg team are colleagues from a range of other German institutions, including GEOMAR, MARUM, CeNak, BSH, University of Hamburg, Oldenburg and Hannover as well as Goethe University Frankfurt, who bring expertise in biodiversity, marine geology, physical oceanography.
Nearly all marine science cruises have been postponed during the coronavirus pandemic, with most research vessels returning back to their home ports. However, with careful preparation and planning, this expedition – which, due to international travel restrictions, is carrying only German researchers instead of the planned international IceAGE team – was able to go ahead. The whole crew has been working from home offices for 2 weeks and then confined in quarantine for 3 days before departure, with meticulous testing of everyone for COVID-19 before boarding the ship. The ship’s medical facility is equipped with virus testing equipment, and everyone on board will observe strict hygiene measures, including allowing only single occupancy of cabins – something of a luxury for a research vessel!
The team on board RV Sonne will be sending daily updates from the ship via a cruise blog – our primary blogger-on-board is geoscientist and seafloor mapping expert Mia Schumacher from GEOMAR. To follow the blog, see the links at the bottom of the page – from here you can follow all the action from the ship, find out what how marine scientists take samples from the seafloor thousands of metres below the ship, and read about life on board a research ship. We will also bring you footage from the ROV as it explores the deep-sea world, and there will be opportunities to ask the science team questions and (internet connection permitting!) engage in some live chat with the team on board. You can also follow progress via Twitter @IceAGE_RR, Instagram and Facebook (both @SenckenbergWorld).
Livestream from the ROV Kiel 6000 on selected dives is available to watch at www.youtube.com/senckenbergworld
RV Polarstern polar transit expedition: Cape Town – Bremerhaven.
Polar transit expedition in the east Atlantic: Bremerhaven to Cape Town.
Map benthic communities inhabiting unexplored areas around the Azores, identify new areas that fit the FAO VME definition; and determine distribution patterns of deep-sea benthic biodiversity. Dates TBC.