The Cape York Peninsula lies in the far northern Great Barrier Reef (GBR) Marine Park. The peninsula is one of the most isolated regions of the Australian continent and little is known about what lies in the offshore deeper waters. Scientists consider these deeper waters to be a frontier area of the GBR. Sparse information from previous mapping expeditions indicates complex deep sea canyons, massive landslides, and detached mesophotic (deep) reefs rising from around 500 meters below the sea surface. However, why these detached reefs exist and the structure of the deep sea canyons are unknown and unexplored. Following two successful cruises – Visioning Coral Seas and Seamounts, Canyons, and Coral Reefs – Dr. Robin Beaman of James Cook University and his Co-PI Mardi McNeil will voyage aboard R/V Falkor for a third time. Their team will utilize mapping and ROV surveys to understand what lies in the northern depths of the Great Barrier Reef.

The Great Barrier Reef is one of the world’s best-known reef systems, however its deep reef and canyon ecosystems are largely a mystery. ROV SuBastian will collect samples, sediment cores, and high-resolution imagery of deep canyons and reefs that extend down to 2,500m.

More information on the research cruise page.

ROV SuBastian Dive 393 – Northeast Fraser Island – Mid-water Survey
Date: Sept 30, 2020 (30.09.2020)
Location: The water column 65 nautical miles (114 km) northeast of Fraser Island off the east coast of Queensland, Australia.
Estimated Maximum Depth: 1200m
Work Completed: This is the first dive of the expedition. Dr. Dhugal Lindsay from the Japan Agency for Marine Science and Technology Center (JAMSTEC),  joins us remotely. We are collecting high resolution video imagery of water column plankton and soft-bodied jellies. Dr. Lindsay will use the data to understand the geographic distribution of these animals with depth and throughout the region.

ROV SuBastian Dive 394 (Pt A) – Bowl Slide
Date: Oct 4, 2020 (04.10.2020)
Location: 68 nautical miles (125 km) offshore of Townsville, QLD in the Central Great Barrier Reef, where we have previously mapped a large undersea landslide that resulted from the collapse of the nearby reef edge.
Estimated Maximum Depth: 230m
Work Completed: This is the second dive of the expedition. This dive is on the steep scarp face that has resulted from part of the reef front collapsing during an undersea landslide some time in the geological past. We are diving from the base of the deep reef front and making our way up through the mesophotic twilight zone towards the edge of the continental shelf. We are exploring the twilight habitats in this area and are particularly interested in the corals and sponges living here.

ROV SuBastian Dive 394 (Pt B) – Bowl Slide
Date: Oct 4, 2020 (04.10.2020)
Location: 68 nautical miles (125 km) offshore of Townsville, QLD in the Central Great Barrier Reef, where we have previously mapped a large undersea landslide that resulted from the collapse of the nearby reef edge.
Estimated Maximum Depth: 230m
Work Completed: This is the second dive of the expedition. This dive is on the steep scarp face that has resulted from part of the reef front collapsing during an undersea landslide some time in the geological past. We are diving from the base of the deep reef front and making our way up through the mesophotic twilight zone towards the edge of the continental shelf. We are exploring the twilight habitats in this area and are particularly interested in the corals and sponges living here.

ROV SuBastian Dive 395 – Noggin Canyon
Date: Oct 5, 2020 (05.10.2020)
Location: The side walls of Noggin Canyon in the Central Great Barrier Reef, seaward of Flora Passage.
Estimated Maximum Depth: 1000m
Work Completed: We will use the high resolution cameras and robotic arm of ROV SuBastian to observe and collect samples of the geology and organisms from the canyon side walls. A dive across the canyon axis and steep side walls can reveal whether terrestrial sediments from on land are deposited here during low-stand sea levels.

ROV SuBastian Dive 396 (Pt A) – Rodda Canyon
Date: Oct 9, 2020 (09.10.2020)
Location: The side walls of Rodda Canyon in the northern Great Barrier Reef, seaward of Princess Charlotte Bay.
Estimated Maximum Depth: ~1800m
Work Completed: A dive across the canyon axis will reveal the type of sediments on the canyon floor. We will use the high resolution cameras and robotic arm of ROV SuBastian to observe and collect samples of the geology and organisms from the canyon side walls. The dive will end at the crest of the ridge-line at the top of the canyon side wall.

ROV SuBastian Dive 396 (Pt B) – Rodda Canyon
Date: Oct 9, 2020 (09.10.2020)
Location: The side walls of Rodda Canyon in the northern Great Barrier Reef, seaward of Princess Charlotte Bay.
Estimated Maximum Depth: ~1800m
Work Completed: A dive across the canyon axis will reveal the type of sediments on the canyon floor. We will use the high resolution cameras and robotic arm of ROV SuBastian to observe and collect samples of the geology and organisms from the canyon side walls. The dive will end at the crest of the ridge-line at the top of the canyon side wall.

ROV SuBastian Dive 396 (Pt C) – Rodda Canyon
Date: Oct 9, 2020 (09.10.2020)
Location: The side walls of Rodda Canyon in the northern Great Barrier Reef, seaward of Princess Charlotte Bay.
Estimated Maximum Depth: ~1800m
Work Completed: A dive across the canyon axis will reveal the type of sediments on the canyon floor. We will use the high resolution cameras and robotic arm of ROV SuBastian to observe and collect samples of the geology and organisms from the canyon side walls. The dive will end at the crest of the ridge-line at the top of the canyon side wall.

ROV SuBastian Dive 397 – Tydeman Knoll
Date: Oct 12, 2020 (12.10.2020)
Location: An unusual and newly mapped seamount-like feature we are calling Tydeman Knoll.
Estimated Maximum Depth: ~550m
Work Completed: A dive up to the base of the knoll and traverse along the steep face to the summit may reveal it’s geological origin and any associated marine life. We will use the high resolution cameras and robotic arm of ROV SuBastian to observe and collect samples of the geology and organisms from the knoll.

ROV SuBastian Dive 398 – An unnamed reef, seaward of Noddy Reef
Date: Oct 14, 2020 (14.10.2020)
Location: Offshore of Cape York in the northern Great Barrier Reef, on the steep front of an unnamed reef seaward of Noddy Reef.
Estimated Maximum Depth: ~825m
Work Completed: The dive site is at the head of a submarine canyon that connects the deep ocean basin with the shallow continental shelf and coral reefs. We will use the high resolution cameras and robotic arm of ROV SuBastian to explore and sample the geological features and twilight habitats at this site. We are particularly interested in the corals and sponges living here.

ROV Dive 399 (Pt A) – Southern Small Detached Reef
Date: Oct 17, 2020 (17.10.2020)
Location: A very steep vertical cliff face that is over 400m high onto a flat ledge at around 600m water depth.
Estimated Maximum Depth: ~600m
Work Completed: ROV SuBastian will fly up the face of a canyon that resembles a large “plunge pool” carved out by an ancient waterfall in the long geological past. The high-resolution video imagery from ROV SuBastian’s cameras may reveal the layers of ancient rock and sediments that underlie the foundations of The Great Barrier Reef. We will collect geological and biological samples of the corals and sponges that use this deep, steep feature as habitat.

ROV Dive 399 (Pt B) – Southern Small Detached Reef
Date: Oct 17, 2020 (17.10.2020)
Location: A very steep vertical cliff face that is over 400m high onto a flat ledge at around 600m water depth.
Estimated Maximum Depth: ~600m
Work Completed: ROV SuBastian will fly up the face of a canyon that resembles a large “plunge pool” carved out by an ancient waterfall in the long geological past. The high-resolution video imagery from ROV SuBastian’s cameras may reveal the layers of ancient rock and sediments that underlie the foundations of The Great Barrier Reef. We will collect geological and biological samples of the corals and sponges that use this deep, steep feature as habitat.