Mission 1

Images | Videos

Location: Lancaster well, Faroe-Shetland Channel, West of Shetland

60° 11’ 13.738 N 003° 51’18.497 W

Depth: 150m
Water Temperature: 10.2°C
Dates: 21 - 28 August, 2009
Industry Partners  
Gas & Oil Company Hurricane Exploration PLC (HEX)
Rig operator: Dolphin/Senergy
Rig Name: Byford Dolphin
ROV Operator: Fugro
ROV: Spartan

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The SERPENT project carried out a collaborative research mission with Hurricane Exploration PLC (HEX) at the Lancaster exploration well. The well was drilled from the Byford Dolphin, West of Shetland. The study was designed to investigate disturbance on the seabed resulting from the drilling activities at Lancaster, situated in 150m of water, and the effects of these activities on the benthic environment and megafaunal organisms.  The industrial ROV, a Spartan, was used to take video transects and to determine megafaunal densities. In addition, video and photographic methods were used to observe megafauna and fish, including baited cameras. A simple experiment was carried out to assess the effects of physical disturbance on the asteroid Porania pulvillus.

Ling and Current meter

A Ling (Molva molva) and cod (Gadus morhua) attracted to the bait . The seabed mounted current meter is also visible

Physical Data

Mean seabed temperature was 10.2°C and salinity was 35.4. Maximum water temperature was 13.9°C in the surface waters (9m) and the thermocline was at 100m. Current data were collected for a 48 hour period during the visit. The current was tidally reversing with a mean velocity of 10.52 cms-1. The progressive vector plot below shows dominant water movement from southwest to northeast, as expected in the Faroe-Shetland Channel.

A progressive vector plot of the currents from the seabed at Lancaster

A progressive vector plot of the currents from the seabed at Lancaster.

Biological Data

Ecological observations were made throughout the visit, and, whenever possible, high quality digital stills images and close up video footage were collected of each species. In addition, bait was deployed to attract fish to the ROV cameras. The best quality photographs and video are shown in the SERPENT archive database:

Highlights are shown here:


An indeterminate  anemone. It is often difficult to identify cnidarians from photographs.

A Zoanthid colonial cnidarian

A zoanthid colonial cnidarian (possibly Parazoanthus anguicomus)

Curled Octopus

Curled octopus (Eledone cirrhosa). Arms inwardly curled while resting and with one row of suckers on each arm. Common in areas of hard substrate. Approx 200mm (larger armspan).

Red cushion star

Red cushion star (Porania pulvillus). Identified by smooth dorsal surface and found in waters down to 250m. This specimen was observed on the drill cuttings close to the well. Approx 50mm.

Red seastar

The red seastar Stichastrella rosea. Found from shallow coastal areas to over 350m.

Common seastar

Common seastar Asterias rubens. Commonly found on all seabed types from shallow water down to around 200m.

Sea cucumber

Stichopus tremulus. This large holothurian (sea cucumber) is readily identifiable because of its characteristic shape and colour.

Hermit crab

Hermit crab (Pagurus prideaux). P. prideaux has a symbiotic relationship with a cloak anemone, Adamsia carciniopados which it carries on its shell. The anemone offers protection while the gaining food from the crab’s feeding. The pink spots seen on the crab’s shell are the anemone’s and the tentacles are held under the shell.

Squat lobster

Squat lobster Munida sp. Likely M. sarsi or M. rugosa. Species identification requires examination of maxillipeds so is not possible from photograph but there is a suggestion that M. rugosa is more red in colour. Therefore this specimen is most likely M. rugosa.


Megrim? (Lepidorhombus whiffiagonis). This left eyed flatfish is only found deeper than 50m.

Monk fish

Monkfish Lophius piscatorius. These lie on the seabed waiting for their prey which they attract with the first ray of their dorsal fin, modified and used as a lure. Lancaster is located in monkfish fishing grounds. Approx 600mm total length.


Boarfish (Capros aper). The boarfish is an unusual sighting in the FSC. It is recorded as far north as southern Norway so here it is near the northerly limit of its range. Total length approx 80mm.

European Ling

European Ling (Molva molva). The European ling is found most commonly between 100-400 m on either side of the North Atlantic. Approx. 800mm.

Please contact the SERPENT project for more details about this project.

Lancaster location map SERPENT project logo


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