The RRS James Clark Ross (JCR), a British Antarctic Survey (BAS) vessel, visited St Helena back in April to survey the waters around the Island.
Before visiting St Helena, the vessel had been conducting science in and around Tristan da Cunha.
During her visit to St Helena, the JCR spent four days surveying around the Island before heading out to Bonaparte Seamount. The team on-board mapped the seafloor around St Helena and Bonaparte Seamount (200-2000m) in high resolution and provided information on a previously uncharted seamount. They also collected detailed oceanographic data and specimens of benthic and pelagic animals.
A scientist who was on-board the JCR commented:
“St Helena is an excellent location for scientific research and, with the Airport open, more scientists are likely to be attracted to the Island. There is already considerable scientific interest in whale shark and tuna research, but plenty of opportunities for work in other scientific disciplines.”
A few weeks later, the specimens collected from the recent visit of the JCR has now been donated to the Natural History Museum, London. Included in the specimens are 11,000 crustacean specimens, 81 cephalopods (including a Jewelled Squid, Vampire Squid and Piglet Squid) and a deep-sea Anglerfish. [Ever seen the film Finding Nemo? There’s a scene where Dory and Marlin encounter a hungry Anglerfish – which, ironically, looks far more scary!]
Curators at the Museum have been examining the new specimens to gain insights into the underwater life of our ocean.
Senior Curator of Fish at the Museum, James Maclaine, explained:
“The first step is to go through everything and identify it, catalogue it and then curate it. Everything that has been catalogued on our database will then be available via our online Data Portal, so scientists who are working on any of the species we’ve received will then be able to get in touch about examining the specimens.”
The Museum has already received interest from a researcher in Seattle about the deep-sea Anglerfish specimen and plans are in place to loan them for further investigation.
Before the recent specimens were donated, the Museum only had around 450 fish specimens from St Helena and Tristan da Cunha, most of which came from shallower waters close to the shore or near to the surface of deeper ocean.
“These new specimens are very exciting because they come from hundreds of metres down, from a zone not often sampled, so there is much more chance of us finding something rare, or even new to science. Volcanic mid-ocean Islands like St Helena and Tristan da Cunha are of particular interest as they tend to be real hotspots of diversity, with fishes and other animals congregating around them. I believe there is another trip planned for next year where a much larger net will be used, so there will hopefully be even more fascinating discoveries!”
The JCR will not return to St Helena in the near future. Although, next year the team will return to do similar work on another UK research vessel, the RRS Discovery. The Discovery will be in St Helena waters for around 12 days in April 2019.
[Let’s hope for some more fascinating discoveries from the deep!]
Cover photo: © Trustees of the Natural History Museum 2018