Good vibrations | updated 30 September 2014 10.00

Vibrocore recovery as the sun rises.

It’s not a bad life at sea.

At last, back on dry land after 40 days on board the Royal Research Ship James Cook!

BGS scientists and engineers joined a team of university researchers on a mission to recover sediment from the continental shelf in the Celtic, Irish and Malin Seas as part of the BRITICE-CHRONO project funded by the Natural Environment Research Council.

The marine campaign led by principle scientific officer Prof Colm O'Cofaigh (Durham University) set sail from Southampton in mid-July, and arrived back earlier this week after an extremely successful expedition where the weather and equipment held out allowing almost continuous 24 hour operations.

We were part of the first BRITICE-CHRONO marine sampling campaign targeting deposits and landforms with the potential to answer questions related to the style and timing of marine-influenced ice sheet collapse.

The limits of ice sheets onshore are relatively well constrained as the geological record left behind by the ice is accessible. Offshore, however, the record is submerged beneath tens to hundreds of metres of water, making it challenging to reconstruct geological history as the data available is more fragmentary. One of the aims of this cruise was to fill in the missing gaps and explore uncharted areas of the seabed to understand ice sheet history.

The samples collected during this cruise, whilst vital for the BRITICE-CHRONO project, provide greater geological knowledge of our seabed which will support BGS offshore mapping activities and ensure users have the best available information about what lies beneath our seas.

Highlights from the cruise include:

  • clocking 5200 miles on the RRS James Cook
  • collecting approximately 8000 line kilometres of geophysics data (including seismic and bathymetry)
  • deploying and recovering 207 vibrocores (more than twice the original quota!)
  • collecting 13 piston cores (thanks to the technicians from the National Oceanography Centre)
  • achieving 6.08 m core recovery with a 6 m vibrocore (the extra 0.8 m was sticking out the end)
  • recovering approximately 500 m of sediment for scientists to analyse to their hearts content — that's more than the height of the Empire State Building!

A second BRITICE-CHRONO marine campaign in the North Sea will go ahead in the summer of next year. Usually when planning an offshore cruise, you set out with a wish list far beyond what you are likely to achieve. However, with this cruise, targets were continually met if not exceeded. With some luck things will work out just as well next year.

The BGS team comprised Jenny Gales, Claire Mellett, Dave Wallis, Garry McGowan, Connor Richardson, Apostolos Tsiligiannis, Iain Pheasant, Mike Wilson, Jo Hothersall, Dave Baxter, Keith Gibson and Alan Gillies.

Written by Claire Mellett.

You can find out more about the project on the new web pages and follow what the team have been up to so far by reading the blog.


BGS team photo.

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