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R/V METEOR M114: 12.2. - 28.3.2015

Natural hydrocarbon seepage in the southern Gulf of Mexico: Quantification of emissions and fate of hydrocarbons

Figure showing the outline of the proposed working area including the Campeche Knolls and the Sigsbee Knolls in the southern Gulf of Mexico. The scientific work will concentrate on those seafloor knolls and ridges that show signs of oil seepage located in the stippled box. In order to comparatively study hydrocarbon emissions research is also planned at the continental margin off the USA.

Heavy oil and gas bubbles are emitted from the 1200 to 2900 m deep seafloor in the hydrocarbon province Campeche Knoll in the southern Gulf of Mexico. The viscous heavy oil flows across the seafloor, loses volatile compounds, solidifies, and is converted to asphalt with time. Due to the fact that the heavy oil remains at the seafloor, these sites are natural laboratories to study the impact of oil on deep-sea ecosystems, and the time scales of oil and asphalt degradation. These subjects are very timely, and can help understanding effects of deep water oil spills as caused by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon accident in the northern Gulf of Mexico. We propose to study the extent of oil emissions and asphalt deposits using sidescan sonar and to investigate them further employing ROV Quest. A further major topic of the proposed cruise addresses the question whether or not methane can reach the sea surface and may contribute to the pool of greenhouse gases. The fact that seepage of oil-coated gas bubbles leads to oil slicks at the sea surface and enhanced methane concentrations was recently shown in the northern Gulf. It can be assumed that similar efficient transport processes for methane exists in the area of the Campeche Knolls, where oil slicks have been observed in association with about ~30 individual seafloor structures.

Seafloor images by ROV MARUM-Quest 4000m: (A) Chewy asphalts taken by manipulator, (B) galatheid crabs feeding on microbial mat, (C) heavy oil flows, (D) fragmented, altered asphalt.

LEG 1: 12.02. - 26.02.2015
Veracruz - Kingston
Chief scientist:
Dr. Heiko Sahling

LEG 2: 01.03. - 28.03.2015
Kingston - Veracruz
Chief scientist:
Prof. Dr. Gerhard Bohrmann


Weblog from cruise M114 (in German)
Weekly Reports:
Participants M114-2

Participants of cruise M114-2.

Participants M114-1

Participants of cruise M114-1.

R/V METEOR with Control Station German Research Vessels