Huvenne, V.A.I. and et al, .
RRS James Cook Cruise 60, 09 May-12 Jun 2011. Benthic habitats and the impact of human activities in Rockall Trough, on Rockall Bank and in Hatton Basin. Southampton, UK, National Oceanography Centre Southampton, 133pp.
(National Oceanography Centre Cruise Report, 04).
The main aim of cruise JC060 was to carry out habitat mapping work in selected areas of the Rockall Trough, Rockall Bank and Hatton Basin in order to assess the status of different benthic habitats in relation to human activities, especially deep-sea bottom trawling. The cruise included a revisit of the Darwin Mound cold-water coral reefs, discovered in 1998 and protected in 2003, and an assessment of the status of two fisheries closure areas on Rockall Bank. In addition, two pilot studies of a more geological nature were carried out as well: one was targeting a Polygonal Fault System in the Hatton Basin, potentially linked to fluid flow, while the other focused on the history of the Rockall Bank Mass Flow.
The tools used to achieve these objectives included the Autosub6000 Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV), newly equipped with an EdgeTech dual frequency high-resolution sidescan sonar plus chirp profiler and a monochrome stills camera, a commercial inspection class ROV, and more traditional equipment including piston-, mega- and boxcore, CTD and shipborne multibeam (EM120 and EM710).
Although the unsettled weather hampered the operations to a certain extent (including a forced return to the shelter of the Minches, resulting in an ad hoc survey of the E Shiant Bank), the cruise was a success, with 88h of ROV footage & photography collected, 125km2 of seabed mapped at high resolution (metre to centimetre-scale) by the Autosub6000, 400km2 mapped with the EM710 on Rockall Bank, and 52 coring operations for geological and biological studies.
The first results of the cruise stress again the importance of a sound management of the marine realm, including the deep ocean, and underline the continuous need for detailed information and high-resolution data to underpin such management.
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