09/07/2016 Successful ROV expedition to methane seeps in High Arctic

Expedition to Arctic Ocean reveals images of cold seeps Collection of a carbonate crust with abundant organisms attached at a methane seep. Photo: Screenshot

The expedition was a collaboration between two Norwegian centres of excellence – NTNU AMOS and CAGE.

Text: Michael Carroll/Vibeke Os/Maja Sojtaric

The research vessel Helmer Hanssen spent  3-weeks on an expedition to seabed methane seeps in the Arctic Ocean around Svalbard. Onboard the ship was a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) – an exploration system that can  be deployed into the depths of the ocean while operated by scientists aboard the ship to collect desired images and samples.

Researchers from two Norwegian Centres of Excellence collaborated on this expedition: Centre for Arctic Gas Hydrate, Environment and Climate (CAGE) based at UiT in Tromsø, and Centre for Autonomous Marine Operations and Systems (AMOS)  based at NTNU in Trondheim. The latter provided ROV-technology making it possible to explore these cold seeps extensively.

“The centres have cooperated to make this unique and multidisciplinary investigation possible.” says CAGE director Jürgen Mienert.

Mapping the extent of the climate gas seeps

Twenty-three scientists and engineers from the two Centres conducted exhaustive mapping and sampling at methane seeping areas in Storfjordrenna and Bjørnøyrenna.

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Quantifying methane volume flow by analyzing bubble released from the seafloor. Photo: Screenshot

While many of these locations were already known from remote detection methods, the ROV-based surveying provided additional insight on the structure, location, and spatial extent of the gas seeps themselves and on the physical setting and biological communities surrounding them.

“This unique approach has led to new discoveries on both the seeps themselves and on their impact on the local environment” says Michael Carroll, Chief Scientist of the expedition.

A strong compliment to CAGE expertise

The advanced underwater technology developed through NTNU AMOS was a strong compliment to the expertise of CAGE in geology, physical oceanography, sediment geochemisty, and biology. The ROV platform provided an unpresented precision sampling in sample collection and surveying.

Stein M. Nornes, PhD student at NTNU AMOS points out that the collaboration across the disciplines on scientific cruises is very inspiring.

“We get to see the results of the engineering research at NTNU AMOS improving scientific data collection, and we discover new challenges to solve in order to improve our systems even further.

Now that the cruise is finished the researchers have much work with data processing and sample analysis, which will probably yield yet more discoveries on these fascinating and unusual seafloor features.

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