First Post on the Teacher at Sea Blog

Teacher at Sea

Angela Bentley, Head of Earth Science, Aquinas College, Stockport

I have been appointed to take part in the opportunity of a lifetime -to join the team of research scientists on an expedition to the Mid-Atlantic Ridge to try to work out what is actually happening to the Ridge as it parts.

The expedition is being funded by NERC and involves Birmingham, Cardiff and Durham Universities. I will be joining the scientists with the aim of preparing resources for schools and the public that will make the research accessible.

On the 13th or 14th of January I will set sail aboard the state of the art research vessel RRS James Cook. We depart from Cape Verde (just off the West Coast of Africa) and will arrive in Trinidad and Tobago on February 24th. The Mid-Atlantic Ridge (MAR) between these countries is very interesting. It is not covered by sediment so the geology of the sea floor is clearly visible. There is great interest in the science world about the MAR at this location because it is not spreading as geologists used to think.

The Science

Generally it is believed that the MAR spreads outwards from a continuous line of volcanoes that starts in the Arctic and joins the Southwest Indian Ridge which runs from the southernmost Atlantic into the Indian Ocean.

The oceanic crust in this chain of volcanoes is young, very thin, hot and relatively lightweight. New magma fills the gaps that are left behind from the spreading plates.

This is not happening in the study area at 13ºN on the MAR. Instead the supply of magma to the crust is diminished here, so the plate separation is taken up largely by sliding along faults. This allows deep rocks to be exposed at the bottom of the faults. From this scientists are learning how the oceanic crust is constructed. There are lots of questions that arise from this research:

How far do such faults extend along and across the ridge axis?   (This is the main focus of the expedition.)

Why do the faults slip?

What happens to the magma trapped?

What stops the faults from slipping and for normal spreading to start again?

How common is this type of fault behaviour?

Ten of the twenty largest cities on Earth are located on plate boundaries. It is essential that we understand the workings of our planet in order for the people in these cities to be able to live safely with tectonic forces.

The minerals and resources brought to the surface by tectonic forces are used in our everyday lives. Understanding where these resources are located is vital with our expanding global population. At these faults where the deep oceanic crust is exposed there could be many resources that could be utilised by industry.

Teacher at Sea

If you are teacher (from Key Stage 3 starting to teach about forces to A Level teaching about tectonics) I can produce a range of resources related to the curriculum and examination specifications linking to our expedition – just ask. This will tick many OFSTED boxes for your paper work.

Whilst I am on board we can have a live classroom with Q’s and A’s from the RSS James Cook. I will be Tweeting and writing a blog about my day to life on board.

I can show what life is like aboard a research vessel (another OFSTED box regarding careers – scientists, officers, engineers and catering staff) and I will create a resources that I think will be useful and interesting for students of all ages.

I can come and talk at your school/college/public institution – I may able to bring a professor or two along with me now and then. My college have kindly arranged my timetable so that I am not teaching on a Wednesday to enable me to visit schools.

So who am I?

My everyday teaching role is as part of a wonderful team of teachers at Aquinas College in Stockport. My headteacher Danny Pearson has been absolutely fantastic in supporting me in this unique opportunity. THANK YOU DANNY!!

I am a wife and a mother – I have two grown up children, my youngest is off to study Geology at Birmingham – she is quite: ‘jealous of my insane adventure’. I have been teaching for eighteen years this will be my fifth year at Aquinas College – so I’ll be out of my comfort zone!

I was over the moon to be appointed as ‘Teacher at Sea’ on 11th August this year. I’ve learned a great deal already and must thank Christine Peirce – lead scientist from Durham University – as she has been a great help with the practicalities of the venture:

New safety trainers – anti slip, steel toe caps

High visibility jacket

Boiler Suit


Hard Hat


I haven’t liked to ask yet…

I know I’ll have shifts, four hours on – eight hours off – that will take some getting used to I’ve never done shift work.

I’m going to visit the vessel in October and have to complete a medical and sea survival training…. I’ll write all about it on my blog and twitter accounts.

You can contact me and follow my journey:

Email:                    teacheratsea@aquinas.ac.uk

Twitter:                                https:/twitter.com/@teacheratseaMAR

Blog:                      https://teacheratseablog.wordpress.com/

Facebook:           https://www.facebook.com/teacheratseaUK

The Vessel and Scientists:

RRS James Cook:             http://noc.ac.uk/research-at-sea/ships/rrs-james-cook

Professor Christine Peirce :         https://www.dur.ac.uk/earth.sciences/staff/academic/?id=378
Professor Roger Searle:                                https://www.dur.ac.uk/earth.sciences/staff/profiles/?id=379
Professor Tim Reston:   http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/schools/gees/people/profile.aspx?ReferenceId=10636
Professor Chris MacLeod (who won’t be going to sea with us as he will already be at sea on a drilling ship)           http://www.cardiff.ac.uk/people/view/81697-macleod-christopher


3 thoughts on “First Post on the Teacher at Sea Blog

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