BY Nick Walton on 28 Feb 2023

Following submarine encounters with rare giant phantom jellyfish, Viking has become the first cruise line to publish a scientific paper.

Following Submarine Encounters with rare giant phantom jellyfish, Viking has become the first cruise line to publish a scientific paper.

The Viking Expedition Team has published the company’s first scientific paper following observations of the rarely encountered scyphozoan Stygiomedusa gigantea, commonly known as the giant phantom jellyfish.

The encounters took place during submersible dives in the coastal waters of the Antarctic Peninsula in early 2022. Despite reaching up to 30 feet (10 meters) in length, only 126 encounters with the giant phantom jellyfish (below) have ever been recorded since the species was first described in 1910.

During Viking’s inaugural season in Antarctica in 2022, direct observations of the giant phantom jellyfish were made three times from submersibles deployed from Viking’s expedition vessel, the Viking Octantis, and documented through stills and video photography.

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Authored by two of Viking’s Chief Scientists, with contributions from the submersible teams, the scientific paper describes for the first time how personal submersibles, such as those on the Viking Octantis and her identical sister ship, the Viking Polaris, can be vessels of opportunity for biological research in polar regions and allow the science community to access under-explored waters.

With citizen science activities increasingly popular among expedition guests, the paper, published in Polar Research, the scientific journal of the Norwegian Polar Institute, also notes the potential to gather guest-derived data from submersible dives. 

“It is extraordinary that we know so little about such large marine creatures as the giant phantom jellyfish, however now we have the means to make regular observations at greater depths than previously possible, which provides an exciting opportunity for discovery,” says Lead author Dr. Daniel Moore.

Following Submarine Encounters with rare giant phantom jellyfish, Viking has become the first cruise line to publish a scientific paper.

Viking has created the world’s leading scientific enrichment environment in an expedition setting with the help of partnerships with esteemed academic institutions. During each expedition, visiting researchers from partner institutions are part of the 36-person Viking Expedition Team. This diverse group of experts lead guests through meaningful scientific work, provide guiding and interpretation during shore excursions and deliver world-class lectures.

“The Viking Octantis and the Viking Polaris are re-imagining what a research ‘ship of opportunity’ can be,” says Dr. Damon Stanwell-Smith, Head of Science and Sustainability at Viking. “During each voyage, our guests participate in real, significant science. Our scientific approach centers on having the platform to explore with the personnel to interpret what is found, and we believe this is the first of many scientific papers that will result from research conducted on board Viking expedition vessels.”

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In April 2022, Viking announced a strengthening of its lead partnership with the University of Cambridge, establishing a new Professorship aimed at advancing research in the field of polar environmental science. The Viking Polar Marine Geoscience Fund endows the University of Cambridge’s Scott Polar Research Institute (SPRI) with its first-ever fully funded professorship—the Viking Chair of Polar Marine Geoscience. This new post enhances the scientific leadership at the Institute and enables the development of new lines of research into the behaviour of polar environments, including polar ice sheets, sea ice and ocean circulation.

Following Submarine Encounters with rare giant phantom jellyfish, Viking has become the first cruise line to publish a scientific paper.

The research fund builds on Viking’s existing partnership with Cambridge University’s SPRI, which played a significant role in developing the scientific enrichment program for Viking Expeditions. Specialists from the Institute were also consulted in the development of The Science Lab on Viking’s expedition vessels; the 380-square-foot lab is comprehensively appointed with wet and dry laboratory facilities and supports a broad range of research.

Julian Dowdeswell, Professor of Physical Geography at the University of Cambridge, and former director of SPRI, serves as the Chair of the Viking Research Advisory Group, a consortium of scientific leaders from Viking’s partner institutions who have been actively involved in overseeing the field research being undertaken on board. In addition to the University of Cambridge’s SPRI, Viking’s other scientific partners include The Cornell Lab of Ornithology; the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory (GLERL); the Norwegian Institute of Water Research (NIVA); the Norwegian Polar Institute; and Oceanites, an American Not-for-Profit field research entity that has led on Antarctic penguin monitoring for the past thirty years.

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