JC10 cruise to the CCZ underway!

News date: 
April 17, 2015

On 15 April, the UK research vessel RRS James Cook set sail from Manzanillo in Mexico, bound for the deep sea of the Clarion Clipperton Zone (CCZ) in the Pacific Ocean. Over the next 6 weeks, the scientific team on board will explore an area of the seafloor that is set aside by the International Seabed Authority as an Area of Particular Environment Interest (APEI) - an area that is protected from deep-sea mining of polymetallic nodules. Led by NOC biologist Dan Jones (pictured right in port at Mazanillo), the team will map the seafloor, first using the ship-mounted multibeam bathymetry system and then followed by finer-detail mapping using the autonomous underwater vehicle Autosub 6000. The aim is to be able to characterise and understand the seafloor habitats so we can better predict how the biology responds to the seafloor environment and how it might be affected by industrial activities such as nodule mining.

Samples of seafloor sediments, animals and overlying water will be taken from across the study area to build a multidisciplinary dataset containing information on various sizes of fauna (megafauna, macrofauna, meiofauna and protozoans), the sedimentary environment and its geochemistry and the overlying (and pore) water. A range of cores up to 3 m deep will be taken for analysis of the sediments and pore fluids. This will enable a much better understanding of the formation mechanisms of the polymetallic nodules and some of the controls on life in the region. Smaller samples will be taken to assess the biodiversity and community composition of the fauna of the region, quantitatively for many faunal groups. Finally, the team plan to collect some nodules and fauna with trawls over the seafloor. All of these samples will contribute to a strong baseline dataset from the APEI, allowing the team to evaluate this area and assess any future changes. It will also allow comparisons to be made with nearby mining claim areas to better understand broad scale patterns.

The JC120 cruise will run from mid-April until mid-May 2015. You can follow the expedition's progress via their online blog at jc120.wordpress.com