Amongst fireworks and ships' sirens heralding the stroke of New Year RRS James Cook released its tethers from the rail-tugs that had guided her through the Panama Canal and exited the lowest basin of the Miraflores Locks to enter its spiritual home - the Pacific Ocean.
Captain James Cook was the greatest European explorer of the Pacific. He led three voyages aboard HMS Endeavour, Resolution and Discovery (1768-1779) to observe the transit of Venus; chart New Zealand, the east coast of Australia, Alaska to Kamchatka, and many of the Pacific Islands; and make the first circumnavigation of Antarctic. Cook and the names of his ships are indelibly linked to the island nations of the Pacific.
Following a two cruise campaign undertaking geochemical and geophysical studies of the Caribbean island volcano Montserrat, RRS James Cook has now embarked on JC021 - a Cardiff and Southampton-led cruise to survey exposures of lower ocean crustal rocks exposed at Hess Deep.
This unique, >5000 m deep, tectonic window developed the junction between the East Pacific Rise and the western tip of the Cocos-Nazca plate boundary will be subjected to detailed bathymetric survey using the Remotely Operated Vehicle Isis and sampling with the wire-line BRIDGE drill. JC021, funded by the UK-Integrated Ocean Drilling Program, will be used to locate sites for future deep coring using the re-fitted IODP drillship JOIDES Resolution, aptly named after one of Cook's ships.
Such holes will complement the on-going programme of drilling an intact section of ocean crust being undertaken at the nearby IODP Site 1256 with major involvement of NOC scientists.