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Location: Whirlwind (UK well 205/21a-5), Faroe-Shetland Channel, West of Shetland
Position: 60°11’13.738” N  003°50’19.071” W
Depth: 184m
Water Temperature: 10.1° C
Dates: 10th-14th September and 4th-11th October 2010
Industry Partners  
Gas & Oil Company Hurricane Exploration (HEX)
Rig Operator: Dolphin
ROV Operator: Subsea 7
ROV Pioneer 027

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The SERPENT project carried out a collaborative research mission with Hurricane Exploration PLC (HEX) at the Whirlwind exploration well. The well was drilled from the Borgsten Dolphin, West of Shetland. The study was designed to investigate disturbance on the seabed resulting from the drilling activities at Whirlwind, situated in 184m of water, and the effect of these activities on the benthic environment and megafaunal  organisms. The industrial ROV, Pioneer 027, 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 the use of a time-lapse camera. CTD data were also collected for all dives and a seabed mounted current meter was also deployed at Whirlwind.

Time lapse camera deployed on the seabed at Whirwind in 2010.

Physical Data

The mean seabed temperature was 10.1° C (184 m) and maximum water temperature was 14° C in surface waters. There is a tidally reversing current regime at Whirlwind. Some slight anomalies were found on 08/10/2010, as shown below, the anomalies at the end of the deployment period are a result of the current meter being moved.

Temperature profiles of the water column above the seabed at Whirlwind from the first ROV dive in visit 1.

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. Some specimens were collected and preserved in Formalin for identification back at NOC Southampton. The best quality photographs and video are shown in the SERPENT archive database: http://archive.serpentproject.com/view/sites/Whirlwind.html

The highlights are shown here:-

Monkfish Lophius piscatorius

Hermit crab Pagurus prideaux with an octopus behind, the eye is visible in the picture with the body of the octopus covered in sediment. Most P. prideaux attach sea anemones Adamsia palliata, the anemones provide protection to the hermit crab.

Starfish Stichastrella rosea

Goosefoot Starfish Anseropoda placenta


Large brittle star Ophiuroid sp.

Large plumose anemone thought to be  Metridium sp. this species is very common at Whirlwind

Squat lobster Munida sp. in defence posture outside its hiding place.

Anemone of the Hormathiidae family exact species unknown but is thought to be one of the two more diverse families in the deep sea and many of the taxa are distinguished based on internal anatomy, such as how many pairs of mesenteries are complete or size of nematocysts.

Crab Cancer pagurus walking along the seafloor

Redfish sp. most likely Helicolenus dactylopterus

Flatfish sp. most likely Lepidorhombus whiffiagonis

Cod Gadus morhua

Starfish Porania pulvillus feeding

For further information please contact:
Dr Andrew Gates , SERPENT Project, National Oceanography Centre, Southampton, UK.

or Dr Daniel Jones , SERPENT Project, National Oceanography Centre, Southampton, UK

Brugdan location map Dr Andrew Gates

About Andy
Research Interests
T: +44 (0)2380 596363
E: arg3@noc.soton.ac.uk