The Newsletter of the SERPENT project

December 2009 Issue 19

Mission News | Gulf SERPENT | Outreach & Conferences

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SERPENT missions

Total and the Usan Field, Nigeria
Shell at South Uist
West of Shetland with HEX

Outreach & Conferences

Gulf SERPENT newsletter available
Andy Gates presents at the Biodiversidade Bacia de Santos (Biodiversity of the Santos Basin) Conference in Rio, SA
Dan Jones talks at Louisiana State University in the USA

Mission News

SERPENT visits the Usan Field, Nigeria and the Faroe-Shetland Channel

Total at Usan Field, Nigeria

At present there is very little information on the seafloor communities of the Gulf of Guinea region and Nigeria is particularly poorly explored. SERPENT was lucky enough to be able to carry out another visit to this region through Total E&P Nigeria and the Total Foundation for Biodiversity and the Sea, this time to the deep-water Usan field 100 miles south of Port Harcourt.

This multidisciplinary SERPENT expedition made assessments of the biodiversity of Usan focussing on the large animals (megafauna) of the seabed and the plankton. We used the ROV to carry out a very detailed, quantitative assessment of the effects of slope on the larger animals visible in the ROV video footage. We were also able to investigate the seabed sediments and physical conditions of the water column. We made trap collections of scavengers at Usan including a new species of amphipod. The video we obtained also showed the presence of several other likely new species of large seabed anemones.

We worked in conjunction with two Nigerian research institutes on the project and were joined for the expedition by Prof. Alex Ugwumba from the University of Ibadan and Dr Adesina Adegbie from the Nigerian Institute for Oceanography and Marine Research, Lagos. This work has provided valuable data and samples for analysis in Nigerian laboratories.


total logo - go to web site

The image shows a compact community living on a deep-sea glacial moraine
The image shows a compact community living on a deep-sea glacial moraine

A Lithodid Crab

sea urchin Phormosoma
A Sea Urchin (Phormosoma sp.)

Shell at South Uist

2 - 7 August 2009
We recently visited the South Uist development currently being drilled by Shell on the semi-submersible drilling rig Leif Eiriksson. The video survey was undertaken by Oceaneering ROVs. This site had a varied fauna representative of the Faroe-Shetland Channel at over 1000 m depth. The seafloor was covered in large rocks, some up to boulder size, that were deposited by melting icebergs during the last ice age (10,000 - 30,000 years ago). There are also some areas of softer sediment, this combination leads to a wide variety of seafloor life, and particularly of interest were the many cnidarians and some large sea spiders.


Shell logo - go to web site

Oceaneering logo - go to web site

Sea Spider Collosendeis sp.
The giant Sea Spider Colossendeis probscidea is pictured at a depth of 1156m.

Hurricane Exploration’s Lancaster well

21 – 28 August 2009
SERPENT next visited the Byford Dolphin drilling rig at Hurricane Exploration’s Lancaster well in 160m water depth west of Shetland. During the visit we carried out video transects and stills photography to identify the organisms living on the seabed and determine the extent of disturbance from drilling. Successful deployments of our new seabed current meter and ROV mounted CTD were also accomplished. Interesting observations included the crustaceans and fish attracted to our baited trap and a small shoal of boarfish (Capros aper) seen feeding on fauna encrusting a marker buoy.

Organisms attracted to the baited trap on the seabed at Lancaster included European ling (Molva molva) and cod (Gadus morhua).


hurricane exploration logo - go to web site
Boarfish (Capros aper)
Boarfish (Capros aper), an unusual observation west of Shetland. A small shoal was seen feeding around a marker buoy used to estimate sedimentation disturbance after drilling an exploration well. The shoal remained in the same location for the duration of the visit.

Gulf SERPENT’s latest newsletter

Mark Benfield has been busy as usual but still found the time to get the latest version of the Gulf SERPENT newsletter out. Read all about the fascinating missions he’s been working on recently.

Gulf SERPENT logo

Read the Gulf SERPENT Newsletter


Gulf SERPENT images
Mark Benfield has been busy this summer!



Outreach and Conference News

It’s been a busy summer and we’ve been lucky enough to show off SERPENT and our partnerships in a wide range of exciting and prestigious venues.


Thomas Hardye School Science festival.
Read more…
Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition.
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British Science Festival.
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Manchester Science Festival.
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Conferences & Talks

Dr Andrew Gates at the Biodiversidade Bacia de Santos (Biodiversity of the Santos Basin) Conference in Rio, SA.
Read more…
Dr Dan Jones attended the Fifth Total Port-Cros Symposium, France.
Read more…
Dr Dan Jones in SERPENT talk at Louisiana State University, USA.
Read more…