Voyage of Discovery: RRS Discovery Expedition to Ascension Island and St Helena

In November 2021, Blue Belt Programme scientists and key companions will depart on a 9000 mile expedition to Ascension Island and St Helena within the South Atlantic Ocean. At the moment finalising each the scientific targets and getting ready the entire essential scientific tools, the crew will depart Southampton onboard Royal Analysis Ship (RRS) Discovery on 26 November.

The ship is the fourth vessel to bear the identify Discovery, the primary being the barque-rigged auxiliary steamship in-built 1901 which carried Robert Falcon Scott and Ernest Shackleton on their extremely profitable voyage to the Antarctic. The trendy-day RRS Discovery is a purpose-built ocean-going analysis vessel operated by the Pure Atmosphere Analysis Council (NERC). RRS Discovery is sort of 100m lengthy, 18m vast and weighs 6000 tonnes. Fitted with probably the most up-to-date high-tech tools and sensors, RRS Discovery is the proper ship to undertake oceanic exploration in distant and difficult environments.

Determine 1. RRS Discovery

RRS Discovery
Royal Analysis Ship (RRS) Discovery (Picture: Nationwide Oceanography Centre)

Adapting to COVID-19

This expedition was initially conceived early in 2020 when our preliminary planning started with a scheduled crusing date of March 2021, however everyone knows what occurred subsequent…Quick ahead to the current day, and our new crusing date is quick approaching.

Because the preliminary plans had been developed a number of issues have modified. Because of the potential impacts and dangers that COVID-19 may have on an expedition of this kind, we are going to now be crusing from Southampton all the best way to Cape Verde, off the west coast of Africa. After refuelling, we are going to proceed our journey to Ascension Island and St Helena.

We are going to spend 10 days round every island, conducting scientific surveys and amassing knowledge. As soon as accomplished, we are going to transit again to Tenerife to disembark. The entire expedition will take roughly 60 days to finish and canopy over 9000km, crossing the equator twice.

There will probably be 27 scientists onboard, together with colleagues from the Governments of each Ascension Island and St Helena. We may even be supported by members of the RRS Discovery crew, and technical and engineering employees from Nationwide Marine Services.

Determine 2. RRS Discovery  143 transit observe

Goals and targets of the expedition

A essential goal of the expedition is to gather new scientific knowledge on how key habitats and species discovered inside the biodiverse and close to pristine Unique Financial Zones (EEZs) and Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) of each islands operate. This elevated information will assist inform the event of future sustainable administration and conservation methods.

Habitats of curiosity for the expedition will embrace beforehand uncharted hydrothermal vents, the Atlantic mid-ocean ridge and numerous unexplored seamounts. These completely different habitats help a large number of vital species, together with chilly water corals, tuna, billfish and sharks. Areas beforehand surveyed may even be revisited. By doing this, we are able to gather time-series knowledge which is able to enable scientists and managers to start assessing any modifications recognized and relate them to the effectiveness of current administration methods.

Determine 3. Photographs of related species and habitats

Mid-Atlantic Ridge (Image: DY100)
Mid-Atlantic Ridge (Picture: DY100)
Viper Fish (DY100)
Viper Fish (Picture: DY100)
An example of cold water coral Photo DY100
An instance of chilly water coral (Picture: DY100)

Time-series knowledge is especially key in serving to scientists and the Abroad Territories perceive the potential impacts of worldwide ocean threats – akin to local weather change and non-indigenous invasive species – to those marine environments. Constructing baseline and time-series knowledge will enable us to determine potential modifications to those habitats, akin to in water temperature or acidity, sooner or later. Rising this understanding will assist Ascension and St Helena, in addition to different Territories, to tell the mitigation of those impacts.

The Discovery expedition may even be an vital alternative to gather knowledge on compliance and enforcement measures across the islands. As an example, the positional data of different vessels encountered by Discovery will probably be used to validate distant sensed satellite tv for pc knowledge that’s at present used to observe Unlawful, Unreported and Unregulated fishing (IUU) inside the EEZs and MPAs of the islands.

Throughout the survey, we’re additionally excited to share related information and experiences with colleagues onboard from each Ascension and St Helena. Throughout the 10 days we spend across the respective islands, coaching and studying alternatives will probably be given on a spread of sampling actions and a set of information assortment strategies. This information change will assist to construct capability on island for future analysis actions.

What tools do you want for a marine survey?

This expedition has been months in preparation, and we are actually within the remaining levels of our planning.  A container of specialized tools will depart from Lowestoft in mid-November and journey to our departure port of Southampton. Alongside technical tools, it would embrace important gadgets starting from the private protecting tools we’d like, to our provide of mince pies and Christmas chocolate…

The wide range of kit we’ll use every serve particular functions which is able to enable us to fulfil the scientific targets of the voyage. Particular examples of kit consists of:

  • Deep-water cameras which will probably be deployed to a depth of 3000m and seize footage of deep-water habitats and communities.
  • A water sampling rosette (or CTD) which is able to gather water samples from the water column.
  • Mid-water trawls which is able to catch pattern specimens of deep-water fish, octopus, squid and shrimp.
  • Corers will probably be deployed to evaluate sediment and infaunal neighborhood construction of deep-sea sediments.
  • Passive acoustic items will probably be deployed to evaluate if this method may very well be used to observe for potential IUU fishing exercise.

A wave glider (an autonomous, unmanned floor car) may even be deployed on missions across the islands to survey pelagic fish abundances through the use of acoustics to measure the dimensions of shoals. Baited Underwater Distant Video Methods (BRUVS) may even be deployed within the floor waters to evaluate the presence and abundances of huge pelagic species akin to sharks and tuna. We may even be mapping the seabed utilizing Multibeam Swath Bathymetry which constructs a picture of the seabed utilizing sound.

Determine 4. Photographs of equipment and examples of output

Deepwater camera rig, rated to 3000m
Deepwater digital camera rig, rated to 3000m (Picture: Cefas)
Water sampling rosette (Picture: Nationwide Oceanography Centre)









BRUVS around Pitcairn Island, Shark
Instance of BRUVS deployment (Picture: Pitcairn Island Marine Survey 2021)

By way of this collection of blogs and by way of Blue Belt Programme social media channels, we hope to maintain you all up to date on how the expedition is progressing, reveal any thrilling discoveries we make alongside the best way and introduce you to the crew and life onboard the ship. Please test again to observe our progress, and ship by way of any questions you might have!

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