Into the Twilight Zone

Mission Overview

Members of WHOI’s Ocean Twilight Zone team will be sailing on a Spanish research vessel, the Sarmiento de Gamboa, out of Vigo, Spain, May 3 to 21. Our ship will be joining two others that are part of the NASA-funded EXPORTS mission, which focuses on what happens in the surface ocean to help move carbon from the atmosphere down to the twilight zone.

Scientists on the Sarmiento de Gamboa will be deploying large nets that can be opened and closed at specific depths (MOCNESS); a towed vehicle carrying both a special imaging system to take pictures of individual animals (Stingray) and an acoustic system to measure the abundance of life in the twilight zone; small imaging robots that measure sinking particles full of carbon (MINIONS); a larger underwater float to capture and take microscopic images of marine snow particles (TZEX); and several more biological, chemical and physical sensors.

The team will be collecting fish and other animals that will allow them to better understand the relationship between what lives in the twilight zone and the movement of carbon from the surface to the deep ocean. Along the way, you’ll get to see what happens when the scientists and crew retrieve their nets from the ocean and see up close some of the fantastic creatures that share the planet with us.

The expedition is also an excellent opportunity to test new technology developed by scientists and engineers to study a hard-to-reach place like the twilight zone. You’ll get to see how instruments like MINIONs, TZEx, and sonar bring back data that teach us even more about the ocean and how it helps make our planet livable.

You’ll also get to meet the science team and the ship’s crew on the research vessel Sarmiento de Gamboa, as well as the two other ships joining us—the Discovery and the James Cook from the National Oceanography Centre in the U.K. Our two chief scientists for the expedition are Ken Buesseler, an ocean chemist and at WHOI, and Heidi Sosik, a plankton biologist and the science lead of the Ocean Twilight Zone project at WHOI.

So get your sea legs ready and join us when we shove off May 3 for the wilds of the Northeast Atlantic and the ocean’s amazing twilight zone.

Quick Facts

DatesMay 3 - 21, 2021
LocationNortheast Atlantic
ShipSpanish Reserach Ship Sarmiento de Gaboa
Chief ScientistKen Buesseler Ph.D Heidi Sosik, Ph.D.
Science QuestionsHow does carbon move through the mesopelagic? Do fish and other migrating creatures transport carbon?
TechnologyMOCNESS Stingray (ISIIS, Acoustic package) MINIONS TZEx