Project Description



The Porcupine Abyssal Plain is vast plain situated at a water depth between 4000 and 4850 m. This site has been studied from the surface to the abyss since the mid-1980s. It is positioned between the North Atlantic current and the Azores Currents and it is crossed by clockwise and anticlockwise swirls and eddies. Its seabed hosts a rich living community, that is sampled and photographed. The combined monitoring data sets capture short-term (daily-seasonal), longer-term trends (climate driven) and episodic events (e.g. spring bloom) and the data contribute to the Europe-wide move toward good environmental status of our seas.

EMSO scientific disciplines: atmosphere, physical oceanography, biogeochemistry, marine ecology, abyssal seafloor

General information

Location: North East Atlantic Ocean, abyssal plain
Distance from land: 300 miles
Max water depth: 4850 m at the PAP-SO
Date 1st deployment: First operations 1985 (RRS Challenger 6A/85); First long-term moored instrumentation 1991 (Bathysnap, RRS Challenger 79); PAP3 sediment traps from 1989; PAP1 mooring from 2002
Supported by: United Kingdom
Operated by: NOC
Status: running (updated May 2020)
Regional Team Leader: Sue Hartman, NOC

Scientific objectives

Study the connections between the lower atmosphere, water column and seafloor at a deep ocean site in the Northeast Atlantic, understanding ecosystem function especially related to carbon sequestration dynamics.

Description of the infrastructure

The observatory has one surface meteorological buoy (air and 1m depth) and a subsurface sensor frame (30 m depth) that measure many Essential Ocean variables (PAP1). A PAP-3 mooring has sediment traps at 3000 to 4750 m depth. A Bathysnap (4850 m depth) takes seabed images.