Autonomous landers that can conduct experiments and gather data on the sea floor have the potential to revolutionise oceanographic research. By using a number of landers, the spatial and temporal coverage of a single ship can be increased by orders of magnitude. Landers also enable small ships to carry out deep sea research without the need for wires extending to full ocean depth. Landers have been specified as a necessary component of all the major subsurface oceanographic research programmes, BENGAL,OMEX, JGOFS, HiBETS etc.
European laboratories have already developed a variety of landers. An essential next step is for these to work together in a co-ordinated fashion. Landers from all the partners will be carried on a multi-lander cruise of the RRS Discovery in the North East Atlantic in 1996. This will comprise the largest fleet of landers (20) ever assembled and will be the prototype for future deep-sea oceanographic expeditions in the next century. This expedition, will confront for the first time the problems of inter-compatibility of systems and management of such a complex exercise. A diversity of landers will be deployed including monitoring of water column above the floor, tracking of abyssal fishes, probing the sediment, in situ chemical analysis, biological and metabolic studies.
Following these experiences, during 1997 new technological solutions to lander engineering problems will be developed by the various partners. Work will be directed towards an advanced modular lander prototype for use from large oceanographic vessels. A complementary development will be undertaken of a compact lander designed for use from small vessels, which although based on islands or coastlines near deep-water have no means otherwise of sampling in the sea floor. The compact lander development will serve to broaden the foundations of deep-sea research in Europe.
In 1998 a second advanced multi-lander cruise in the NE Atlantic will be aimed to evaluate the new technologies, demonstrate the cohesion of the European Lander fleet, and establish routine operational protocols for future oceanographic expeditions. At this time a series of trials will also be undertakeh of the compact lander in the Eastern Mediterranean using the RV PHILIA (size, 200t, 26m long) from the Institute of Marine Biology in Crete. Lander, benthic, chemistry, physics, biology, deep-sea, autonomous vehicle, acoustics, sediment.
Funding SchemeCSC - Cost-sharing contracts
412 96 Goeteborg
1790 AB Den Burg
PA37 1QA Dunbeg Oban Argyll