Newsroom home | News Items | News 2009 | News Archive | Event News | Event Questions


19 November 2014 - New video highlights from the Gulf of Mexico

A new highlights video from Mark Benfield's Gulf SERPENT work is available at

This shows observations of marine life at a range of depths viewed from industrial ROVs in the Gulf of Mexico as part of the Gulf SERPENT Project. Gulf SERPENT is funded by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management with in-kind funding by Shell, BP, Chevron, and Petrobras-America.

13 October 2014 - New paper on Angolan megafauna

Daniel Jones has published a new paper in Deep Sea Research I about the megafauna associated with asphalt mounds on the deep sea floor off Angola. Asphalt mounds are formed from hydrocarbon seepage associated with subsurface salt structures. The paper describes mapping 2254 asphalt mounds and then using industry ROVs to explore them in further detail. The mounds provided habitat for many epifaunal species and these structures may represent important habitat on other continental margins around the world.

The paper is Open Access and available for download from the journal Deep Sea Research Part I.


20 May 2014 - EU Maritime Day

Andrew Gates presented SERPENT at EU Maritime Day 2014 in Bremen in the stakeholder workshop entitled "Sustainable extraction of marine resources from the deep sea". The presentation, invited by OGP, showed how collaboration between scientists with industry can be used to increase our understanding of the deep sea. It was also an opportunity, during a panel discussion about extraction of resources, to show video of the often fragile organisms and habitats of the deep sea as a reminder of the importance of monitoring and limiting impacts in unexplored areas.


Porania pulvillus

16 May 2014 - Natural history meets data mining

An article on Echinoblog shows how observations collected through a variety of deep-sea research projects can be collated to inform our understanding of the ecology of animals we would otherwise have limited access to study. Among other observations the article highlights images from the SERPENT archive that show the asteroid Porania pulvillus feeding.

The SERPENT images were collected at the Lancaster and Whirlwind sites west of Shetland through our collaboration with Hurricane Energy, the Cashel site off Ireland in collaboration with Statoil and at BP's Schiehallion location. Details of the SEPRENT visits are available on the Missions pages.



13 May 2014 - Food falls off Angola

Working with Nick Higgs from Plymouth University, SERPENT scientists Daniel Jones and Andrew Gates have published a paper describing some amazing observations of the carcasses of a whale shark and mobulid rays at the seabed 1200 m deep off Angola. This research represents the first observations of large food-falls aside from whale-falls. The paper describes the scavenging fauna that feed at this bonanza of food and considers the role of large food-falls in the export of carbon to the deep sea floor.

The paper is available from the online journal PLoS One and the BBC provides some media coverage.

Higgs, N. D., Gates, A. R., Jones, D. O. B. (2014) Fish Food in the Deep Sea: Revisiting the Role of Large Food-Falls. PLoS ONE 9(5):e96016. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0096016

30 January 2014 - Article about SERPENT work off Tanzania

BG Group have published an article about recent SERPENT Project visits to the Deepsea Metro 1 drillship operating offshore Tanzania. This is part of an ongoing study of the deep sea in an unexplored part of the Indian Ocean off East Africa.

The web article is available on BG Group's website and a PDF version is available here. There are more SERPENT Project observations from the deep western Indian Ocean in our archive.


21 June 2013 - SERPENT Nigeria paper published

Our paper describing the deep-sea life recorded off Nigeria has just come out. This paper details the results from our work with Total Nigeria at the Usan (and Akpo) sites on the Nigerian Margin. This work documents the changes in the seabed life in relation to seabed slope just outside the main hydrocarbon development area at Usan. It is the first study to look at the larger seabed fauna in the deep-waters of Nigeria. We found some important insights into the role of seabed slope (or factors associated with it) in structuring communities, as well as documenting some impressive and diverse assemblages of deep-water fauna, particularly in areas of high slope. The paper can be downloaded here and is listed on our publications page.


10 June 2013 - SERPENT observations of Oarfish hit the news.

Extraordinary footage of a rarely seen giant deep sea fish has been captured by SERPENT scientists. Using a remotely operated vehicle, Mark Benfield (the leader of GulfSERPENT) caught rare video of five oarfish. These appear to be the first observations from remotey operated vehicles (ROVs) and are among only a few sightings of the fish in its natural oceanic habitat. The oarfish, which can reach 6-8 m in length, is generally known from dead or dying specimens that was ashore.

Oarfish (Regalecus glesne) are one of the world's longest fish reaching 6 - 8 m. Their strange appearance may have provided the basis for the sea serpent myths told by early ocean travellers. Not only are they elongated, they also have a prominent dorsal fin which gives it an unusual "serpent" appearance. Benfield's team reports on the deepest record of an oarfish from 493 m below BP's Thunder Horse platform. Recalling the event Professor Benfield explained how at first, they thought the fish was simply a drilling pipe called a riser being lowered into the water. "We saw this bright vertical shiny thing, I said 'are they lowering more riser?' as it looked like they were lowering a huge pipe." "We zoomed in a little bit and we said 'that's not a riser that's a fish!'". "As we approached it retreated downwards swimming tail first in a vertical orientation as the ROV followed," Professor Benfield explained. The team followed the fish for about five minutes before breaking off contact to resume their surveys. "What was interesting about the fish was its swimming behaviour," said Professor Benfield. "It moved by undulating its dorsal fin in waves that propelled it backwards at quite a good speed." Early estimates measure the fish at between 5.1 - 6.8 m in length.

Professor Benfield said this may be the first time the oarfish has been filmed alive swimming in the so-called mesopelagic layer of the ocean. Usually, they are seen dying at the sea surface or washed up dead. The fish may have been caught on camera at a depth of 765m at another Serpent survey site, off western Africa in 2007, but a positive identification has not yet been made from that video. On this occasion the fish was observed underneath Thunderhorse in the Gulf of Mexico, one of the largest semi-submersible oil rigs in the world. The Serpent project run by the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton (NOCS) is a unique collaborative project between scientists and industry. Oil and gas companies allow scientists access to their deep sea technologies and infrastructure in a bid to aid their research. "(It) provides a wonderful opportunity to learn more about life in the depths of the Gulf of Mexico. That we found an oarfish while doing so was a fantastic bonus," said Professor Benfield. Professor Benfield is excited by the potential for further discoveries and revelations from the deep that the SERPENT project may bring. "It's all very exciting, my vision for the Gulf SERPENT Project is to establish a Gulf-wide deep sea biological observation system, with hundreds of ROV-equipped ships and rigs in the deep Gulf." "(We can) get a good idea of what species are present, where they are present, and what they are doing.".

The results of this study have been published in the Journal of Fish Biology. Links to all five observations are available from: This story has also been heavily reported in the mainstream media and blogosphere. Including the BBC news, Daily Mail and Deep-sea News.


4 February 2013 - INDEEP settlement frames recovered.

The first frames have been recovered from a collaborative project to investigate larval recruitment in the deep sea using industry infrastructure.

This project is part of INDEEP and has enlisted the help of Transocean to get access to deep water to deploy the settlement frames.

More details are available here.

24 January 2013 - Meeting in Tanzania

Andrew Gates went to Dar-es-Salaam to present the results of SERPENT's field work off Tanzania. Statoil organised the seminar to present and discuss environmental projects related to their deep-water exploration. As part of this work, Andrew went offshore from Tanzania last year to investigate deep-sea biodiversity around drilling rigs operating in the area. A mission report will be on the SERPENT website soon.

Images collected offshore Tanzania are archived in the SERPENT database.


19 December 2012 - Daniel Jones' guest post on Deep-Sea News

Read Daniel Jones' guest post about SERPENT's recent work on deep-sea hydrocarbon drilling on the Deep-Sea News blog.


17 December 2012 - SERPENT at the 13th Deep-Sea Biology Symposium in Wellington

Andrew Gates, Daniel Jones and Charlie Main recently attended the 13th Deep-Sea Biology Symposium in Wellington, New Zealand.

Andrew presented the results of recent SERPENT research on disturbance and recovery from hydrocarbon drilling in deep water and Charlie described the results from her experiments investigating the effects of oil on deep-sea sediments. Daniel's presntation predicted the effects of climate change on future benthic biomass.

The presentation titles were as follows:

Gates; The SERPENT Project: Exploring deep-sea life, anthropogenic disturbance and recovery at hydrocarbon exploration sites

Main; Investigating the effects of deep-sea oil spills on sediment community oxygen consumption

Jones; Future reductions in global ocean benthic biomass predicted as a result of climate change

20 November 2012 - SERPENT studies on recovery from disturbance in deep water are available online

The two studies of disturbance in deep water which SERPENT scientists have been working on have now been published. The study from the Laggan site in the Faroe-Shetland Channel is published in Marine Ecology Progress Series and the study from Morvin in the Norwegian Sea is in PLOS One. The studies were carried out at 600 m and 380 m depth.

The work suggests some evidence for recovery after three years at both sites but confirms that full recovery in the deep sea may take many years.

Both papers are open access so they are freely available to download:

Gates, A. R. and Jones, D. O. B. (2012) Recovery of benthic megafauna from anthropogenic disturbance at a hydrocarbon drilling well (380 m depth in the Norwegian Sea). PLOS ONE. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0044114

Jones, D. O. B., Gates, A. R. and Lausen, B. (2012) Recovery of deep-water megafaunal assemblages from hydrocarbon drilling disturbance in the Faroe-Shetland Channel. Marine Ecology Progress Series. 461:71-82. DOI: 10.3354/meps09827


15 October 2012 - Deep-sea biodiveristy in the Eastern Mediterranean - SERPENT's deepest site

A study has been published recently describing the results of SERPENT work carried out onboard the Discoverer Americas in the Eastern Mediterranean. At 2720 m this is SERPENT's deepest study site so far.

The paper in African Journal of Marine Science describes the benthic megafauna and fishes observed during a week of ROV observations at the Kiwi location north of Egypt. This part of the Mediterranean is extremely oligotrophic owing to high water temperature throughout the water column (14C at the seabed) and megafaunal abundance was very low. Occasional observations of crabs and fish were made but it was not until bait was deployed that any numbers of organisms were recorded. Even then it was predominantly one species of crab.

The paper is available here:

Gates, A. R., Jones, D. O. B., Cartes, J. E. (2012) In situ video observations of benthic megafauna and fishes from the deep eastern Mediterranean Sea off Egypt. African Journal of Marine Science 32: 215-222. DOI:10.2989/1814232X.2012.675121


12 August 2012 - SERPENT papers on recovery

SERPENT has got two major new papers accepted in peer-reviewed journals. These papers present the first analyses of recovery in deep-water megafauna from drilling disturbance. One paper is just out in Marine Ecology Progress Series and focusses on recovery at the deep water Laggan site in the Faroe-Shetland Channel. The other paper will be released soon in PLOS One and assesses recovery at the Morvin site in the Norwegian Sea.

05 March 2012 - SERPENT article on Shell's website

Following Andrew Gates' presentation at The Hague a new article has been published by Charlotte Brookes on Shell's website. It covers the collaboration with SERPENT at Dalsnuten and Gro in the Norwegian Sea and South Uist in the Faroe Shetland Channel. Thanks to all the hard work at these locations by Kerstin Kröger, Daniel Jones and Nicolai Roterman.

For more information about the sites please look at the image in the SERPENT archive.

25 February 2012 - New SERPENT publications

Two of SERPENT's recent science projects have just been published.

Daniel Jones' investigation of the effects of disturbance on the deep-sea megafauna at the Orca oil well offshore Venezuela was published in the Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the UK.

Junya Hirai's study of krill density over space and time at numerous SERPENT sites in the Faroe-Shetland Channel is published in Marine Biology Research.


10 November 2011 - Mission Report from West of Shetland

A new mission report has been uploaded describing Andrew Gates' recent visit to the Wilphoenix to study changes to the megafaunal assemblage a year after the well was initially drilled. As well as the work on disturbance there were some fascinating observations of conger eels living within a protective structure on the seabed.

Visit the mission pages to find out more. See Whirlwind Recovery in the United Kingdom section.

SERPENT at the Shell stand

The INDEEP meeting

3 October 2011 - SERPENT at the WCMB

Andrew Gates and Kerstin Kröger attended the World Conference on Marine Biodiversity in Aberdeen last week. Kerstin and Andrew presented SERPENT on conference sponsor, Shell's stand in the exhibition area. Andrew and Kerstin gave short talks from the stand about SERPENT's current work and discussed future collaboration with many scientists at the event.

SERPENT and other organisations took part in lively panel discussions organised by Shell about science collaborating with industry to study the oceans.

During the conference SERPENT and the INDEEP WG3 met with Transocean for an update and to continue discussions on the population connectivity project.

INDEEP meeint participants

1 August 2011 - SERPENT working with INDEEP

Members of the WG3 INDEEP group and SERPENT met in the New Forest, UK on 13th & 14th July to discuss plans for an exciting new venture to study connectivity on a global scale.

Meeting participants:  Anna Metaxas, Dan Jones, Andrew Gates, Annie Mercier, Ana Hilario, Paul Tyler, Sven Thatje, Maria Baker, Eva Ramirez-Llodra, Pedro Riberio.  Input was also given from members of WG3 who were unable to attend the meeting

For further information, about INDEEP visit

7:30 programme

6 July 2011 - SERPENT on Australian TV

Australian ABC TV's national flagship current affairs program "7:30" featured Prof. David Booth and Dr Peter Macreadie commenting on the controversial question of whether Australia’s offshore petroleum structures should be converted into artificial reefs (‘rigs-to-reefs’) and highlighting the importance of the deep sea SERPENT program. Broadcast on Wed 6th July 2011. Watch on ABC!

Deep Sea Life Book

24 January 2011 - SERPENT book out now!

A new book about the deep sea life of Scotland and Norway has just been published. This book features the best SERPENT images from this unique and diverse deep water area. It is one of the first true species guides for the deep sea and features a detailed introduction to the area, high-quality colour photographs and in depth taxonomic and ecological information on the animals of the area. This book represents nearly ten years of regular observations by the authors and is a treasure-trove of information on the deep marine life of the region. Available now!

02 December 2010 - SERPENT activity at three sites off the coast of Shetland

In recent months the SERPENT team have been to three sites off the coast of Shetland: Lancaster, Lagavulin and Whirlwind where SERPENT have carried out investiagtions and collected both physical and biological data. Industrial ROV's were used to deploy time laspe cameras, take sediment samples and deploy baited traps to asses the disturbance caused by drilling and also to investigate the recovery of sites once drilling has stopped. Both video and stills images were collected at all three sites, some speciemens were also collected and frozen to be further analaysed back in the lab.

There have been many species encountered at the sites, both Lancaster and Whirlwind showed a high similarity in species present at both sites. Images and details of the species found at the sites are avalibale in the Media Archive

Full details of all the SERPENT missions can be found here

25 November 2010 - SERPENT image used in BBC 2's "Autumnwatch Unsprung"

A SERPENT image of a monkfish seen this year at Whirlwind, West of Shetland was featured in the final episode BBC 2's "Autumnwatch Unsprung" series. The episode can be seen online on BBC iplayer

The image is 9 minutes 5 seconds into the programme.

More images from Whirlwind are available in our database


20 October 2010 - SERPENT presentation on environmental monitoring offshore Norway

Dr. Andrew Gates presented data from SERPENT's work in Norway at the Forum for Environmental Monitoring held in Oslo at the Climate and Pollution Agency

The presentation is available online

28 July 2010 - SERPENT welcomes new team member

The SERPENT project would like to welcome Dr Kerstin Kröger Dr Kerstin Kröger as the newest member of the team, Kersitn who is orginally hails from germany, has come to us via Norway. Where she worked on the MAREANO project and prior to that spent ten years in New Zealand working for various scentific organisations.


Stygiomedusa jelly

28 April 2010 - SERPENT sighting of giant jellyfish makes BBC news

SERPENT footage of Stygiomedusa gigantea filmed in the Gulf of Mexico has been reported by the BBC

The records are available on our online database


22 April 2010 - Accident on the Deepwater Horizon

During the night of April 20, 2010, the Transocean rig Deepwater Horizon underwent a catastrophic accident that resulted in an explosion and fire that left 11 crew members missing and others severely injured.

Deepwater Horizon, working under contract to BP Exploration and Production, is one of the Gulf SERPENT partner sites. Since 2006, the Oceaneering E-MAG ROV on the Horizon has collected countless hours of stunning images of marine life from the depths of the Gulf.

We are gratified to learn that the ROV Team headed by Darren Costello are safe and uninjured. Our thoughts are with the families of the missing and we look forward to news of their safe rescue.


2 March 2010 - Lecture at Ballard School

Dr. Andrew Gates visited Ballard School in Hampshire to speak about SERPENT in their Spring Term Lecutre Series. The evening was popular with students and parents alike from Ballard and other local schools.

Andrew introduced the group to the deep sea around the UK and further afield and took along some unusual specimens and sampling equipment for the students to see. As part of the evening there was a question and answer session about careers in which Andrew offered advice to those wishing to follow a scientific career path.

Rob Curry

So long and thanks for all the fish!

26 Feb 2010 - Last day for SERPENT Outreach Co-ordinator

Today is the last day of work for Rob Curry who has been the SERPENT Outreach Co-ordinator for the last two years. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the collaborators and partners of the project which it has been by great pleasure and privelege to work with.

I will continue to work at the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton (NOC) providing outreach resources. Please note that our collaboration with the Natural History Summer blockbuster "The Deep" will continue and keep your eyes on the press and online to have a chance to visit this exciting show which will feature an ROV from Oceaneering as well as information about the SERPENT project and NOC.

Daniel Jones will be the outreach contact for now, and you can contact him directly by using our feedback form.


Tripod fish image - watch the movie

A tripod fish Bathypterois sp. swims lazily away from the ROV, then decides to turn and have a look.

Watch the movie


12 Feb 2010 - New footage/images from Brazil

Exciting footage and images of animals found in the deep waters between 906 m and 1443 m offshore Brazil have come into the SERPENT project offices recently. ROV pilot Iain Cruikshank on a Technip vessel came across the creatures on routine maintenance missions and sent us these great images and videos. We were able to help him with identification. Thanks Iain!

If you are a ROV pilot or have authorised access to video or images of creatures in the deep ocean, we really want to hear from you.

See all the images and video in the archive page

Oarfish image - visit the BBC web site


08 Feb 2010 - Gulf SERPENT giant oarfish and manefish article on BBC site.

BBC News profiled two discoveries on their website today: the oarfish from Thunder Horse and the manefish from Ocean Confidence. Discovery Channel is also going to feature the oarfish. The BBC told me that this story was the third most viewed and linked story on their entire website. Thanks to everyone aboard the two sites and in particular, the Innovator 19 team on Thunder Horse and the Oceaneering Team aboard Ocean Confidence.
Professor Mark Benfield of Gulf SERPENT at Louisiana State University.

Read the article at

Related links:
Mark Benfield's recent paper on the manefish.
The Gulf SERPENT latest newsletter.
About BP's Thunder Horse facility
About the Ocean Confidence rig


Twitter Logo image


04 Feb 2010 - SERPENT is now available on Twitter.

Keep up to date with all the latest SERPENT deep sea research news by following the SERPENT project on Twitter.

Visit the SERPENT Twitter page now!

Map image


11 Jan 2010 - New Site Map available on this website

Bloody Henry Seastar image

A Bloody Henry seastar at 600m in the West of Shetland. UK

Find out more...

7 Jan 2010 - SERPENT adds important new insights on the contribution of echinoderms to ocean carbon storage

Population density data and samples collected by the SERPENT project have been incorporated into a large, global study on the contribution of echinoderms (such as seastars, sea urchins and brittlestars) to carbon capture in marine sediments. The report, published in the journal ESA Ecological Monographs, shows that, worldwide, echinoderms capture around 0.1 gigatonnes of carbon per year. This is less than the global capture resulting from pelagic organisms, a figure that ranges from 0.4 to 1.8 gigatonnes depending on the sources considered, but still represents a sizeable carbon pump. By comparison, human activities lead to around 5.5 gigatonnes of carbon being pumped into the air every year.

Read the article


Please see the News 2009 or News Archive page for older news items.

For further information on SERPENT news stories contact Rob Curry.