From 04 to 20 July 2018


Monaco Explorations support a mission taking place onboard the oceanographic research vessel Poseidon of the German oceanographic institute GEOMAR to explore the deep coral reefs of Norwegian fjords.

General context

Directed by Janina Bucher of the GEOMAR institute in Germany, this mission is conducted in partnership with the Monaco Scientific Center (CSM), the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ), the Norwegian Institute of Marine Research (IMR), the marine sciences laboratory of the University of Florida and the University of Francfort (Institut für Geowissenschaften Goethe-Universität).

The general scientific aim is to measure the physiological state of the different populations of cold water coral reefs with priority placed on the species Lophelia pertusa, assess the natural variability of physiological processes (metabolism, growth, reproduction) and compare these field data with the results of laboratory experiments.

For this, water and coral samples are taken between 200 and 300 metres deep on four different reefs present in the coastal regions and off the Norwegian fjords, using the Jago submersible.


coral reef Norway -300 meters

Coral reef Norway

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Collaboration with the Monaco Scientific Center ​

Dr. Christine Ferrier-Pages and Dr. Stéphanie Reynaud of the Monaco Scientific Center (CSM) have been working for several years on the ecophysiology of deep-water corals in the Mediterranean Sea. They were therefore asked to bring their expertise on deep-water corals and collect samples coming from a different geographical area. Magali Boussion, who was then the team’s laboratory technician, carried out the operations in the field.

Objectives of the ecophysiology team

  • Collect corals to perform analyses of the lipids, proteins and sugars present in their tissues.
  • Perform incubations onboard in glass chambers to estimate the carbon budget of corals.
  • Feed various colonies with tagged prey to study their nutrition.

All these samples will be subsequently analysed in the laboratories of the CSM.

Life at -300 metres? Corals in Norway?

Largely unknown, there are coral reefs swarming with life in the cold waters and deep-sea areas. This is the case in Norway and many species of animals are found there. In this video you will see a sample of the animal life found in the 300 metre depth area off the Norwegian town of Throndheim. 

View of the coral reefs of Norway through the camera of the Jago submersible ©JAGO_GEOMAR_POS525

The corals studied

Lophelia pertusa, a magnificent white/pink coral with branches, can live between 80 metres and more than 3 000 metres depth, but most often at depths of 200 to 1 000 metres where sunlight no longer penetrates. 

Another frequently encountered species is Madrepora Oculata, pink orange coloured with a very distinctive zigzag skeleton.

These two species have a calcareous skeleton, they are scleractinians.

So how do these species survive, what are their physiological characteristics? Those were the questions of the scientists.

Lophelia pertusa

Madrepora oculata

bivalve Acesta excavata

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Coral species and bivalves studied during the mission ©Magali Boussion Monaco Explorations

coral reef Norway -300 meters

Sampling ​

During this mission, 4 sites had been referenced and were explored. Two near the coasts, two offshore, targeted in particular to study and compare the possible impact of human coastal pollution.

Cutting-edge technology for exploration

The coral collection is carried out with the Jago submarine of the GEOMAR institute which can reach a depth of 400 metres. An arm located at the forward end of the submersible makes it possible to carefully sample corals by recovering them in a basket fixed on the submersible. All the dives are filmed in high definition with cameras attached to the submersible and the images are subsequently analysed by the scientists. For the water sampling, a rosette is deployed several times a day by the Poseidon near the studied reefs.

Functioning of the Jago arm and collection of corals during a dive onboard the Jago ©Jago GEOMAR


GEOMAR Helmholtz (Centre for Ocean Research Kiel) is a world renowned marine research institute.

It studies the chemical, physical, biological and geological processes of the seabed, oceans and ocean margins and their interactions with the atmosphere.

GEOMAR is a public establishment jointly financed by the German federal government (90%) and the government of the Land of Schleswig-Holstein (10%). GEOMAR employs about 1 000 people (2018)

The Poseidon research vessel

The Poseidon was built in 1976 and belongs to the pool of German research vessels. It has a wet laboratory, two dry laboratories, and gear for the deployment of oceanographic tools such as the Jago submarine or a bathymetric sounder.

The ship, named after the Greek god of the seas, is mainly deployed in the North Atlantic and in the Mediterranean. A crew of fifteen or so people operates the ship and provides logistic assistance to the scientists during their missions onboard.

POSEIDON RV©M.Boussionn Monaco Explorations

The Jago submarine

The Jago is a manned exploration submersible. It moves autonomously under water and is not connected by an umbilical cable to the support vessel. Two large hemispheric windows offer the pilot or an observer excellent views of the seabed and the immediate environment.

The relatively light weight (3 tonnes) and the dimensions enable operations throughout the world with a wide variety of support vessels.

The Jago is currently the only manned research submersible in Germany. It is stationed at the Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research (GEOMAR) since 2006.

The participants

  • Janina Büscher (researcher, mission leader), GEOMAR (Kiel, Germany)
  • Karen Hissmann (engineer, JAGO, coordination), GEOMAR (Kiel, Germany)
  • Jürgen Schauer (pilot, JAGO), GEOMAR (Kiel, Germany)
  • Peter Striewski (co-pilot, JAGO), GEOMAR (Kiel, Germany)
  • Lina Holthusen (master student), GEOMAR (Kiel, Germany)
  • Øystein Gjelsvik (doctoral student), IMR (Bergen, Norway)
  • Narimane Dorey (post-doctoral student), IMR (Bergen, Norway)
  • Sandra Maier (doctoral student) NIOZ (Texel, the Netherlands)
  • Sandra Brooke (researcher), Florida State University Coastal and Marine Laboratory (St. Teresa, Florida, United States)
  • Nico Schleinkofer (doctoral student), Institut für Geowissenschaften Goethe-Universität (Francfort)
  • Magali Boussion (laboratory technician), CSM (Monaco)

A human adventure

A scientific mission of more than 20 days on an oceanographic vessel in the Norwegian fjords, is also and above all a human adventure rich in sharing and in emotions.

Photo gallery

Launch of the Jago ©Jago team POS525

Image of marine life of the deep seabed Norway ©Jago images

Puffin, view of Norway ©S.Jamme

Puffin ©S.Jamme

Landscapes of Norway ©S.Jamme

Caudal fin of a sperm whale ©S.Jamme

Arrival at Bergen ©M.Boussion Monaco Explorations

View of the deck Poseidon RV©M.Boussion Monaco Explorations

departure island, Poseidon offshore ©M.Boussion Monaco Explorations

Nudibranch Norway ©M.Boussion Monaco Explorations

Midnight sun ©M.Boussion Monaco Explorations

Arrival Poseidon RV©M.Boussion Monaco Explorations

Sponge Norway ©M.Boussion Monaco Explorations

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