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New insights and new data!

The new British state-of-the-art research vessel the RRS James Cook returns to port after spending over a month at sea. Returning to the waters over the northern mid-Atlantic Ridge, they concentrated on the area that the GOSars cruise in 2004 showed to be the most interesting, the waters around the Subpolar Front near the Charlie Gibbs Fracture Zone.

The cruise is part of ECOMAR, which is a British-funded element of MAR-ECO. It was led by Professor Monty Priede, Director of the University of Aberdeen’s highly-acclaimed Oceanlab.


Professor Priede summarised the experience by saying: "We are finding species here that are rare or unknown elsewhere in the world. It is like surveying a new continent half way between America and Europe. We are trying to imagine what the north Atlantic would be like without the ridge that literally cuts it in half.


We think that the ridge has a major affect on ocean currents, productivity and biodiversity of the North Atlantic Ocean. When we look at the organisms we see here we can recognise some of the creatures, but many familiar ones are absent and it is the unusual ones that are more common."


In addition to thousands of biological samples, researchers collected enormous amounts of data about conditions in this area. The ship was outfitted with the latest technology including a suite of eight deep sea cameras that have enabled the scientists on board to get more visual information about life and ecological behaviour in the deep sea.

Not only will teams of researchers be poring over the images, specimens and data for years, but they also left behind automatic equipment at six observing stations that will continue to record new measurements and photographs from the deep sea over the next two years. Further ECOMAR cruises are planned to this area in 2008 and 2009.

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