Oceanlab, Newburgh

Oceanlab, Newburgh

Oceanlab at Newburgh, Aberdeenshire – lander with whale skull en route to Rockall for zombie worm study

On June 20th 2015, Dr Alan Jamieson gave a talk on ‘Exploring Life in the Deepest Oceans’ as part of the Energetica Summer Festival. Alan's talk had a snappier title and was more informed, informal and interesting than this review of our visit. The photographs were taken beside the tank in Engineering Building 1, Oceanlab, Newburgh, Aberdeenshire. They show a lander with a whale skull which was deployed on the MRV Scotia. The vessel left Aberdeen harbour on July 16th. A lander system is a stationary pyramid, an autonomous platform consisting of a titanium frame upon which is mounted a camera, lighting, acoustic releases and de/powering devices. For one year, at regular intervals, the camera equipment on the lander will photograph the skull at a depth of 1800m in the Hatton Rockall Basin, capturing visitors and the accumulation of zombie worms on the skull.

A remote granite islet, Rockall is situated 250 miles west of Scotland and 400 miles south of Iceland in the North Atlantic Ocean. For the Trough's location, see the map via the 'Blog update 16th July' link at the foot of this page.

Natural food falls have been simulated in the deep ocean worldwide using baited camera systems. Uniformly they elicit a rapid response from scavenging fauna. Small food parcels (fish carcasses) are located and consumed within hours by a mobile scavenging assemblage. Larger food falls (small cetacean or shark carcasses) deployed to abyssal depths are consumed over a period of weeks, with a succession of scavenging species becoming apparent over longer observation periods. The less transient nature of larger falls extends their role beyond that of a simple food source. The largest cetacean carcasses last years on the seafloor, and support the development of anaerobic conditions and the establishment of chemosynthetic communities. These carcasses become zones of prolonged interaction between scavenging and non-scavenging species.
Consumption of large bathyal food fall, a six month study in the N.E. Atlantic

‘Since the fortuitous discovery of a whale skeleton in 1987, researchers have documented dozens of sunken whale carcasses, both natural and experimentally implanted, and have described more than 400 species that are living on, in and around them. Whale falls provide a large amount of organic enrichment, shelter and substrate to the deep-sea floor that can sustain bone-specialist species such as Osedax worms.

Interestingly, the chemical composition of cow bones, including their high lipid content, makes them a suitable substitute for the study of whale fall faunal assemblages. Cow carcasses are much easier to obtain than whale. After sinking cow carcasses to study communities in the deep Atlantic, several bones were retrieved to be examined for faunal and microbial diversity and succession, as well as trophic ecology and population connectivity.’
From Deep Sea Life, October 2013 issue.

The skull to be used at Rockall was kindly donated by an Orkney fisherman after he was told it was illegal to try and sell it on eBay. Attracted to bones after they've been subsea for a while, the Osedax are commonly called zombie or bone-eating worms. A concerning part of Alan’s talk came when he told us that worms recovered from the depths of the ocean had been analysed by Aberdeen's Hutton Institute and found to be ten times more polluted (with the likes of man-made plastics and flame-retardants, for example) than the average Aberdeen earthworm. Thereagain, given the current hunting propensities of the Faroese, Royal Navy bomb explosions causing mass whale deaths in 2011, huge trawlers hoovering up fish stocks, discard and disregard, man-made climate change wrecking ecosystems and our littered beaches, we should not be surprised - all creatures great and small - that mankind is the main predator and contaminator of our oceans. Noise from underwater bombs caused pilot whales to beach and die off the coast of Scotland, say UK Government scientists.

Rear-Admiral Steve Ritchie, Hydrographer of the Navy and Head of the Service’s surveying and chart-making department, retired from service to the family home at Collieston, four miles from Oceanlab’s premises in Newburgh. Post-war, Steve commanded four survey ships. In 1950-51 he took the Challenger survey vessel on a circumnavigation of the world. Using echo sounding, the crew measured and charted the Challenger Deep trench in the Pacific Ocean. Rear-Admiral Steve Ritchie, 1914 - 2012.

Two beautiful ideas emerge from Nan Shepherd's book ‘The Living Mountain: A Cairngorms Journey’. The first is that we should not walk up mountains but into them, thus exploring ourselves. She wrote: "Beginners want the startling view, the horrid pinnacle, sips of beer and tea, instead of milk." Secondly Shepherd "abandons the summit as the organising principle of a mountain". Interestingly Alan Jamieson in his talk spoke much the same about ‘Life in the Deepest Oceans’, saying that we shouldn’t concentrate solely on the deepest part of the oceans. Jeff Drazen, a scientist from Hawaii, has similar thoughts: “Many studies have rushed to the bottom of a trench, but from an ecological view that is very limiting. It’s like trying to understand a mountain ecosystem by only looking at its summit.”

Giant amphipod at Oceanlab

Life in the Mariana trench. YouTube - footage taken by scientists on Schmidt Ocean Institute’s research vessel ‘Falkor’. Snailfish sets depth record. Hadal lander

Oceanlab is part of the University of Aberdeen. The MRV Scotia was carrying members of the MASTS Deep-Sea Forum. Two students were onboard: PhD student Amy Scott-Murray (Oceanlab) was undertaking virtual specimen archiving using photogrammetry and Chris Welch (SAMS) is collecting samples to look for microplastics. The research team was exploring the Basin for “birds nest” sponge aggregations (the only example in UK waters) through to chemosynthetic fauna, potentially inhabiting cold-seep/gas hydrate systems in the region. The team uses a variety of equipment including the lander and Marine Scotland Science’s high definition camera system. The equipment onboard enables the researchers to locate the potential cold seep site and sample the fauna inhabiting the region.
Marine Scotland blog - New collaborative deep sea survey: Hatton-Rockall Basin. July 13th 2015 by Lyndsay Cruickshank
Blog update 16th July

A team from Aberdeen University is carrying out research in the Canadian Arctic. They are adding ice algae to sediment cores to trace which animals depend on them for food. The team will deploy a lander system with sensors and cameras to monitor the organisms.
Ref:
Subsea skull photography
Date:
2015-06-20 00:00:00.0
Location:
Newburgh in Aberdeenshire, and Rockall in the Atlantic Ocean.
Photographer:
Yvonne Ferguson
Oceanlab, Newburgh

Oceanlab, Newburgh

Oceanlab at Newburgh, Aberdeenshire – lander with whale skull en route to Rockall for zombie worm study

On June 20th 2015, Dr Alan Jamieson gave a talk on ‘Exploring Life in the Deepest Oceans’ as part of the Energetica Summer Festival. Alan's talk had a snappier title and was more informed, informal and interesting than this review of our visit. The photographs were taken beside the tank in Engineering Building 1, Oceanlab, Newburgh, Aberdeenshire. They show a lander with a whale skull which was deployed on the MRV Scotia. The vessel left Aberdeen harbour on July 16th. A lander system is a stationary pyramid, an autonomous platform consisting of a titanium frame upon which is mounted a camera, lighting, acoustic releases and de/powering devices. For one year, at regular intervals, the camera equipment on the lander will photograph the skull at a depth of 1800m in the Hatton Rockall Basin, capturing visitors and the accumulation of zombie worms on the skull.

A remote granite islet, Rockall is situated 250 miles west of Scotland and 400 miles south of Iceland in the North Atlantic Ocean. For the Trough's location, see the map via the 'Blog update 16th July' link at the foot of this page.

Natural food falls have been simulated in the deep ocean worldwide using baited camera systems. Uniformly they elicit a rapid response from scavenging fauna. Small food parcels (fish carcasses) are located and consumed within hours by a mobile scavenging assemblage. Larger food falls (small cetacean or shark carcasses) deployed to abyssal depths are consumed over a period of weeks, with a succession of scavenging species becoming apparent over longer observation periods. The less transient nature of larger falls extends their role beyond that of a simple food source. The largest cetacean carcasses last years on the seafloor, and support the development of anaerobic conditions and the establishment of chemosynthetic communities. These carcasses become zones of prolonged interaction between scavenging and non-scavenging species.
Consumption of large bathyal food fall, a six month study in the N.E. Atlantic

‘Since the fortuitous discovery of a whale skeleton in 1987, researchers have documented dozens of sunken whale carcasses, both natural and experimentally implanted, and have described more than 400 species that are living on, in and around them. Whale falls provide a large amount of organic enrichment, shelter and substrate to the deep-sea floor that can sustain bone-specialist species such as Osedax worms.

Interestingly, the chemical composition of cow bones, including their high lipid content, makes them a suitable substitute for the study of whale fall faunal assemblages. Cow carcasses are much easier to obtain than whale. After sinking cow carcasses to study communities in the deep Atlantic, several bones were retrieved to be examined for faunal and microbial diversity and succession, as well as trophic ecology and population connectivity.’
From Deep Sea Life, October 2013 issue.

The skull to be used at Rockall was kindly donated by an Orkney fisherman after he was told it was illegal to try and sell it on eBay. Attracted to bones after they've been subsea for a while, the Osedax are commonly called zombie or bone-eating worms. A concerning part of Alan’s talk came when he told us that worms recovered from the depths of the ocean had been analysed by Aberdeen's Hutton Institute and found to be ten times more polluted (with the likes of man-made plastics and flame-retardants, for example) than the average Aberdeen earthworm. Thereagain, given the current hunting propensities of the Faroese, Royal Navy bomb explosions causing mass whale deaths in 2011, huge trawlers hoovering up fish stocks, discard and disregard, man-made climate change wrecking ecosystems and our littered beaches, we should not be surprised - all creatures great and small - that mankind is the main predator and contaminator of our oceans. Noise from underwater bombs caused pilot whales to beach and die off the coast of Scotland, say UK Government scientists.

Rear-Admiral Steve Ritchie, Hydrographer of the Navy and Head of the Service’s surveying and chart-making department, retired from service to the family home at Collieston, four miles from Oceanlab’s premises in Newburgh. Post-war, Steve commanded four survey ships. In 1950-51 he took the Challenger survey vessel on a circumnavigation of the world. Using echo sounding, the crew measured and charted the Challenger Deep trench in the Pacific Ocean. Rear-Admiral Steve Ritchie, 1914 - 2012.

Two beautiful ideas emerge from Nan Shepherd's book ‘The Living Mountain: A Cairngorms Journey’. The first is that we should not walk up mountains but into them, thus exploring ourselves. She wrote: "Beginners want the startling view, the horrid pinnacle, sips of beer and tea, instead of milk." Secondly Shepherd "abandons the summit as the organising principle of a mountain". Interestingly Alan Jamieson in his talk spoke much the same about ‘Life in the Deepest Oceans’, saying that we shouldn’t concentrate solely on the deepest part of the oceans. Jeff Drazen, a scientist from Hawaii, has similar thoughts: “Many studies have rushed to the bottom of a trench, but from an ecological view that is very limiting. It’s like trying to understand a mountain ecosystem by only looking at its summit.”

Giant amphipod at Oceanlab

Life in the Mariana trench. YouTube - footage taken by scientists on Schmidt Ocean Institute’s research vessel ‘Falkor’. Snailfish sets depth record. Hadal lander

Oceanlab is part of the University of Aberdeen. The MRV Scotia was carrying members of the MASTS Deep-Sea Forum. Two students were onboard: PhD student Amy Scott-Murray (Oceanlab) was undertaking virtual specimen archiving using photogrammetry and Chris Welch (SAMS) is collecting samples to look for microplastics. The research team was exploring the Basin for “birds nest” sponge aggregations (the only example in UK waters) through to chemosynthetic fauna, potentially inhabiting cold-seep/gas hydrate systems in the region. The team uses a variety of equipment including the lander and Marine Scotland Science’s high definition camera system. The equipment onboard enables the researchers to locate the potential cold seep site and sample the fauna inhabiting the region.
Marine Scotland blog - New collaborative deep sea survey: Hatton-Rockall Basin. July 13th 2015 by Lyndsay Cruickshank
Blog update 16th July

A team from Aberdeen University is carrying out research in the Canadian Arctic. They are adding ice algae to sediment cores to trace which animals depend on them for food. The team will deploy a lander system with sensors and cameras to monitor the organisms.
Ref:
Subsea skull photography
Date:
2015-06-20 00:00:00.0
Location:
Newburgh in Aberdeenshire, and Rockall in the Atlantic Ocean.
Photographer:
Yvonne Ferguson