The RRS James Cook departed on 7 January for the East Scotia Ridge looking for black smokers - hydrothermal vents. The scientists will be working at depths of 2400-2800 metres with underwater cameras to reveal the inhabitants of these chemosynthetic ecosystems.
The programme is led by Professor Paul Tyler of the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton (NOCS) and involves scientists from a number of international research institutions. The expedition is led by Dr Alex Rogers of the Institute of Zoology.
The researchers will use the UK's remotely operated vehicle (ROV) Isis, which is capable of diving to 6500 metres and is equipped with high-definition cameras.
Professor Tyler has made two previous expeditions to the area. "It is an incredibly exciting expedition as there are some remarkable discoveries to be made. We have seen the biology of other mid-ocean ridges and how dissimilar it is - tube worms in the Pacific and vent shrimps in the Atlantic. What will we find here? Both? Neither? This will be another piece of the global jigsaw puzzle - what we find in the Southern Ocean will help to complete the picture."
Once the expedition is underway the scientists will be sending back daily blogs about their activities.