Cayman Trough exploration in 2010

A planned exploration of the Cayman Trough, the world’s deepest volcanic ridge, is unlikely to begin before April next year, the team behind the expedition has said.

Marine scientists from the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton, England, were granted $747,700 last year to explore the Cayman Trough, which is also known as the Cayman Trench and the Bartlett Deep. The Cayman Trough is the deepest part of the Caribbean Sea, with a maximum depth more than 7,500 metres – or 25,000 feet.

Team leader Jon Copley said the Centre is still awaiting confirmation on when they can set sail for Cayman.

‘We are still waiting to hear when the ship we need will be scheduled for our expedition. We probably won’t know that until September – and the earliest the expedition could be is April 2010,’ he said.

The expedition will be the first time the Trough, a deep volcanic rift, will have been explored at great depth, and the team expects to find some hitherto undiscovered creatures.

The Natural Environment Research Council last August gave the grant to the team to explore the Cayman Trough, which starts 46.6 miles south of Grand Cayman and runs 68 miles south beyond that toward Jamaica.

The team will use a robotic, unmanned submarine called Autosub6000 and a remotely operated vehicle called Isis to carry out the exploration. They will travel aboard a royal research ship, the RRS James Cook, in the first of two expeditions, which will be carried out over the next three years.

The team plans to seek out new marine species and geological features, and to study deep ocean currents in the Cayman Trough for the first time.