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:   121218  0700

Zone:   Z -3

Exped: DY096

Subj:   PIM


Pos:  52 54S   73 56W (Northern End Magellan Straits)

Co:    122

Spd:  12kts

WX:   WSW F3. Overcast and clear. Sheltered waters

 Status: Vessel on passage to Punta Arenas

 Intentions:  ETA Punta Arenas Anchorage 2100 13-DEC-18

Berthing 0700 14-DEC-18

Vessel:  James Cook


DTG: 131218 0700

Exped: JC176

Zone: Z-1

Subj PIM


Position: 27 16.8N 021 35.4W

Course: 088°T

Speed: 9.5kts

WX: ENE x 15 Kts, Slt sea and slt/mod oceanic swell, Fine and Clear

Status: On passage to Las Palmas.

Intentions: ETA 15/0800L

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

David Smeed

National Oceanography Centre 


Subtropical North Atlantic 35 days

RAPID 26N project

The RAPID 26N project makes observations of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) in collaboration with colleagues from University of Miami and NOAA in the USA.

The UK component of this project is an array of moorings in the subtropical Atlantic that make measurements of temperature, salinity, currents, and bottom pressure.   From these we are able to calculate the transport of mass, heat and freshwater associated with the overturning circulation.  Variability of these transports have important climate impacts in the North Atlantic, the surrounding  regions and globally.  

Additionally there are sensors to measure biogeochemical transports, in particular carbon, for the ABC project.   There are three main sub-arrays: the first is on the western boundary close to the Bahamas, the second is over the mid-Atlantic Ridge and the third is on the Eastern boundary close to the Canary Islands.These moorings are scheduled to be serviced once every 18 months.

Further details can be found here and here 

RRS Discovery

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

Bramley Murton

National Oceanography Centre

 Rio Grande Rise SW Atlantic

21 days

The E-Tech element potential of submarine ferromanganese mineral deposits of the Rio Grande Rise

Formed 72 million years ago and drowned 22 million years ago, the Rio Grande Rise is a lost land of dinosaurs, ravines and plateaus the size of Wales. Cruise DY094 will sail from Santos, Brazil, on the 19th of October with a scientific team from the National Oceanography Centre, British Geological Survey, University of Edinburgh and the University of Sao Paulo. Deploying the autonomous underwater vehicle, Autosub6000, the team will map the Rio Grande Rise in extraordinary detail. With the robotic underwater vehicle HyBIS, they will explore and photograph features on the seafloor including a huge rift over 1000m deep, mysterious sinkholes and the ancient remains of beaches long since drowned under hundreds of metres of water.

The Rio Grande Rise lies 1400 km east of Brazil, in the South Atlantic. Surrounded by water over 3000m deep, the relatively shallow Rio Grande Rise is of interest for seafloor mineral deposits rich in iron, manganese and other metals that are important to modern society. Two of these in particular are critical to any future effort to reduce our dependence on hydrocarbons: cobalt and tellurium. Cobalt is essential in rechargeable batteries that are needed if we are to move to electric vehicles. Tellurium is essential for high-efficiency solar-electric power generation.

Our research aims to enhance understanding of the processes controlling the formation and composition of deep-ocean mineral deposits. By deploying autonomous and robotic underwater vehicles, instrument moorings, and novel sampling methodologies, we will test hypotheses for the environmental controls on metal concentration and deposit richness at a regional to local scale.

Cruise DY094 is jointly funded by the UK and Brazil, and is purely a scientific expedition of discovery.


Previous and Upcoming Expeditions

Learn about the previous research expeditions that have been undertaken.