Arctic Ocean Exploration with the Nereid Under Ice Vehicle

Christopher R. German, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution


Improving our understanding of all aspects of the Arctic Ocean is a “hot topic” priority - as voiced by the participants at the Ocean Exploration 2020 workshop held in Long Beach California in July 2013: both in pre-meeting responses to on-line surveys and in the consensus arrived at during the meeting itself.  But this was scarcely news to the larger Ocean Exploration community who have been advocating action to pursue this urgent need for at least a decade.

One small facet of global-scale Ocean Exploration focuses on hydrothermal systems at the deep sea floor.  While venting can occur throughout the world’s oceans, we still do not know where the major barriers to gene-flow occur that establish distinct provinces for vent-biogeography.  The Arctic is a particularly keen target, because it represents a completely isolated deep-ocean basin that may host the isolated evolution of vent-endemic fauna.   We first obtained irrefutable evidence for venting along the Gakkel Ridge more than a decade ago (Edmonds et al., 2003) and the compelling need to return to those sites was identified at the outset of the Census of Marine Life decade (Van Dover et al., 2002).  Finally, in July 2014, our colleague Dr Antje Boetius (Alfred Wegener Institute, Germany) has secured shiptime on the ice-breaker Polarstern to return to this area and has invited PI German, internationally recognized in this field – to help lead the shipboard exploration of the site.