Viking shows how submersibles can aid biological research

Cruise line’s expedition team saw rare jellyfish while sailing in the Antarctic with Viking Octantis

Viking shows how submersibles can aid biological research

Viking/Anthony Gilbert

The giant phantom jellyfish was first spotted in 110 and has only been seen126 times, three of which were Viking sightings

By Alice Chambers |

Viking’s expedition team has published its first scientific paper in the Norwegian Polar Institute’s Polar Research journal to demonstrate how the personal submersibles onboard its expedition cruise ships can help scientists to conduct biological research in polar regions and  under-explored waters.

The scientific paper, written by two of Viking’s chief scientists with contributions from the submersible teams, also highlights the potential for gathering guest-derived data during submersible dives.

“It is extraordinary that we know so little about such large marine creatures as the giant phantom jellyfish, however now we have the means to make regular observations at greater depths than previously possible, which provides an exciting opportunity for discovery,” said Dr Daniel Moore, lead author of the paper.

For example, the Viking expedition team recorded three sightings of a 10-metre-long giant phantom jellyfish, known as ‘Stygiomedusa gigantea’, which has only been encountered 126 times since it was first sighted in 1910. The sightings were made during a submersible dive in the coastal waters of the Antarctic Peninsula in early 2022 during Viking Octantis’s inaugural season in Antarctica.

During each Viking cruise, visiting researchers from partner institutions make up the 36-person Viking expedition team that guides guests through meaningful scientific work during shore excursions and onboard lectures.

“In creating ‘the thinking person’s expedition,’ it was our intention that every voyage should provide opportunities for scientific discovery,” said Torstein Hagen, chairman of Viking. “At the core of Viking Expeditions is the goal to do meaningful scientific work. After just one full season in service, we are pleased that our expedition vessels and scientists have already contributed to research that might not have been possible otherwise, and we look forward to providing critical research opportunities on future voyages.”

Furthermore, the line has strengthened its partnership with the University of Cambridge to establish a new professorship to increase research in the field of polar environmental science. The Viking Polar Marine Geoscience Fund is the Scott Polar Research Institute’s first-ever fully funded professorship called the ‘Viking Chair of Polar Marine Geoscience’. This aims to encourage more research into the behaviour of polar environments including polar ice sheets, sea ice and ocean circulation.

Specialists from the research group also provided guidance on the development of The Science Lab onboard Viking’s expedition vessels, which have both wet and dry laboratory facilities.

“Viking Octantis and Viking Polaris are re-imagining what a research ‘ship of opportunity’ can be,” said Dr Damon Stanwell-Smith, head of science and sustainability at Viking. “During each voyage, our guests participate in real, significant science. Our scientific approach centres on having the platform to explore with the personnel to interpret what is found, and we believe this is the first of many scientific papers that will result from research conducted onboard Viking expedition vessels.”

Viking’s other scientific partners include The Cornell Lab of Ornithology; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory; Norwegian Institute of Water Research; Norwegian Polar Institute; Oceanites; Fjord Phyto; and The IUCN Species Survival Commission Species Monitoring Specialist Group.

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