Hi again from the RV Celtic Explorer! Here is the final update on board, and a summary, as we have now reached the end of the cruise! We have completed our transit back to Galway and, as I write, can see land on the horizon again for the first time in almost two weeks! Back to civilisation once more, as blue skies and a calm sea welcome us home with the coastline coming into view!
Niamh Connolly (myself) on-board the RV Celtic Explorer!
On deck view of the horizon just off Galway Bay
Here is a quick overview of the exciting events that occurred on the Celtic Explorer throughout the cruise across the Western Porcupine Seabight in the North Atlantic Ocean off the west coast of Ireland!
Our first location was the Moira Mounds in the Belgica Mound Province. Here we collected incredible multibeam data to produce detailed topographic maps of the seabed in this region. Seismic profiles of the internal structures of the mounds and seabed (sub-bottom profiles) were also produced, using the CHIRP, of mounds at approx. 840m water depth.
Also, using the multibeam mounted on the ROV we were able to create an even higher resolution map of the Piddington Mound topography, slopes and sedimentary features as well as the other mounds surrounding it! These datasets will hopefully lead to many more windows for discovery and research in the near future as we continue to increase our understanding of these deep sea systems!
The ROV being deployed
The ROV was then used to also create a mosaic using live footage of the seafloor on the Piddington Mound, producing the first images ever seen in this area! Below are just some of the wonderful scenes captured with the HD camera mounted on the ROV.
Multibeam echosounder profile of the Porcupine Bank Canyon; showing the steep sides of the canyon and coral mounds at the top
A collection of some of the images gathered from the Moira Mounds; Top left: Flytrap deep sea anemone, Lophelia pertusa and glass sponges, Top right: Lophelia pertusa (pale pink) and deep sea cnidaria, soft Some images gathered from the Porcupine Bank Canyon; Top left: Black Coral (red), dead and living Lophelia pertusa, and a crinoid (yellow), Top right: Leiopathes (large black coral colony, orange) and Lophelia pertusa, Bottom left: A crinoid, Bottom right; sea star.
Moving swiftly onto our second location, the Porcupine Bank Canyon produced more incredible results and data! The multibeam and ROV multibeam created another intriguing bathymetric profile of the submarine canyon and its channels reaching just over 2km water depth at the bottom and around 700m water depth at the top, with the mounds! From this, an efficient dive plan was created (with some room for exploration on the way), and even with that we weren’t sure exactly what we would find! We weren’t disappointed with the incredible scenes that faced us!
A collection of some of the images gathered from the Moira Mounds; Top left: Flytrap deep sea anemone, Lophelia pertusa and glass sponges, Top right: Lophelia pertusa (pale pink) and deep sea cnidaria, soft coral (Alcyonacea [red]), Bottom Left: sea urchin, dead Lophelia pertusa and gorgonocephalus (on top of Lophelia pertusa), along with more glass sponges (white/transparent), Bottom right: deep sea fish surrounded by living and dead Lophelia pertusa
Some gravity cores were also attempted at this location but were unsuccessful unfortunately!! However, we made up for it by taking a few smaller box cores, composed of surface sediment which will be used for analysis in the lab on shore.
Another exciting aspect to this cruise was the experimentation with the drill mounted on the ROV. This also had never been attempted before so anticipation was high as we tentatively watched the ROV use the drill to bore into the solid rock wall! Thankfully we were successful and managed to retrieve a 20cm core through a calcite vein from a vertical rock face, proving that this technique has the potential to be used in other locations, depths and possibly different rock types, with more experimentation to determine the right size and composition of the drill and core equipment for a given area or situation! Therefore, ending the cruise on an extremely positive note!
Overall, the cruise has been a very successful one, with our knowledge and appreciation heightened for these cold water coral carbonate mound features, and also the complex ecosystem and environmental interactions!
For me personally, it has been a memorable and extremely valuable experience not only learning the scientific expertise behind these research expeditions but also the endless work of the crew, engineers and catering staff who allow everything to run smoothly and remain on track!
QuERCi scientists (left to right): Edel O’Donnell, Romano Capucci, Dr. Chris McGonigle, Ken O’Sullivan, Andy Wheeler, Kevin Power, Graham Ryan, Luca Crippa, Raissa Hogan, Arie Van Der Assam, Agostina Vertino,Niamh Connolly, Eileen McCarthy, Aaron Lim.
Cruise photo of the officers, crew, scientists and the ROV team
Goodbye from the RV Celtic Explorer and hopefully you have enjoyed tracking the progress and events of this cruise and research vessel!
Niamh Connolly, 3rd Year Earth Science, Bsc, UCC.