Research Expeditions

Research Expeditions

At any one time scientists and technicians from the UK marine community can be at sea on numerous vessels. This page provides information on the current research expeditions being undertaken by our two Royal Research Ships Discovery and James Cook. Here you can discover where our ships are and what they are aiming to achieve.


Updates from the ships’ Plans of Intended Movement (PIM)


RRS Discovery RRS James Cook

Vessel: Discovery
DTG:     220118 08:00
Zone:   Z-3
Exped: DY087

Subj:    PIM

Pos:  51 34S 048 13W

Course: 052

Speed: 10.0kts

WX:  NW force 2, Foggy. Slight sea, low swell


Status: Arrived back at first science station 1415 yesterday afternoon. Magnetometer deployed on arrival


Intentions: Complete magnetometer run at 1115. Undertake initial gravity and piston cores. Seismics to be deployed this evening, if sufficient daylight remains after coring. 

Vessel: James Cook

DTG: 230118 0800
Time Zone: UTC-3

Position: 25° 58'N 044° 24'W
Course: 295°
Speed: 11kts
Wind: NNE 8kts
Sea: Low sea and swell
Status: Passage to station 34
Intentions: Investigate Lebus winch mechanical failure. SAPS, CTD and VMP deployments.

Ships’ positions

This map shows the positions of the NOC operated vessels RRS Discovery and RRS James Cook. While every effort is made to keep this map up to date sometimes position updates are not possible.


MARS Portal


Latest Expeditions

RRS James Cook

Cruise Principal scientist & institution Location Duration in days (begins) Aim






22 Days


The RRS James Cook departed Southampton on 25th October bound for Santa Cruz Tenerife. ETA into Tenerife is 1st November. On departure from Tenerife the ship sails for international waters and winch drive suite trials

RRS Discovery

Cruise Principal scientist & institution Location Duration in days (begins) Aim
DY086 Richard Sanders

National Oceanography Centre, Southampton

South Georgia

South Atlantic Ocean

41 days

Controls over Ocean Mesopelagic Interior Carbon Storage - COMICS

The surface ocean is home to billions of microscopic plants called phytoplankton which produce organic matter in the surface ocean using sunlight and carbon dioxide. When they die they sink, taking this carbon into the deep ocean, where it is stored on timescales of hundreds to thousands of years, which helps keep our climate the way it is today.

The size of the effect they have on our climate is linked to how deep they sink before they dissolve - the deeper they sink, the more carbon is stored.  This sinking carbon also provides food to the animals living in the ocean's deep, dark 'twilight zone'.

Computer models can help us predict how future changes in greenhouse gas emissions might change this ocean carbon store.  Current models however struggle with making these predictions. This is partly because  until recently we haven't even been able to answer the basic question 'Is there enough food for all the animals living in the twilight zone?'. But in a breakthrough this year we used new technology and new theory to show that there is indeed enough food.

So now we can move on to asking what controls how deep the carbon sinks. There are lots of factors which might affect how deep the material sinks but at the moment we can't be sure which ones are important. We think that two important ones are the amount of surface biomass and the amount of oxygen inside the ocean.

In this project we will make oceanographic expeditions to two different places where only these factors vary to test how these different factors affect carbon storage in the deep ocean.

DY086 is the first of those expeditions. The second is to the South Atlantic just off South Africa in mid 2018. On both expeditions we will measure the carbon sinking into the twilight zone and the biological processes going on within it.

Then we will determine if the systems are balanced - in other words, what goes in, should come out again. We will then write equations linking all the parts of the system together and analyse them to make them more simple.

At the same time we will test whether the simple equations are still useful  by seeing if they produce good global maps of ocean properties for which we have lots of data.

Finally, when we are happy that our new equations are doing a good job we will use them in a computer model to predict the future store of carbon in the ocean and how it will change as the ocean warms.

Further information can be found here

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Previous and Upcoming Expeditions

Learn about the previous research expeditions that have been undertaken.