Exploration of seabed methane seeps around Svalbard

For the first time, an underwater remotely operated vehicle (ROV) has been used in the exploration of methane cold seeps from the seabed in areas around Svalbard.
Os, Vibeke
Publisert: 05.07.16 00:00 Oppdatert: 11.07.16 15:02

Collection of a carbonate crust with abundant organisms attached at a methane seep. Foto: Michael Carrol
Longyearbyen, 4 July 2016.

The research ship RV Helmer Hanssen has just returned to port in Svalbard after a 3-week exploration of seabed methane seeps around Svalbard. Onboard the ship were researchers from two Norwegian Centres of Excellence. The Norwegian Centers of Excellence, Gas Hydrates Environment and Climate (CAGE) based at UiT in Tromsø, and Underwater Technology (NTNU AMOS) in Trondheim, have cooperated to make this unique and multidisciplinary investigation possible.

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

Quantifying methane volume flow by analyzing bubble released from the seafloor. Photo: Foto: Michael Carrol
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.

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 in the NTNU AMOS centre 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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