Vision of the future
THE Fermoy based Blackwater Sub Aqua Club (SAC) has unveiled its latest piece of high-tech equipment, a side-scan sonar that has the potential to dramatically speed up search and rescue operations.
Matt Cullotty, diving officer with the club, said similar units in use around the country, including one operated by the Mallow Search and Rescue unit, have proven invaluable.
He said the side scan sonar will allow members to scan large tracts of water, such as the River Blackwater, creating accurate images of large areas of the rived bed.
"Essentially it is able to provide a clear understanding of the difference in material and texture type on the river bed," said Matt.
"Side scan sonar imagery is a commonly used tool to detect debris items and other obstructions and in out case, potential missing persons," he added.
Matt said the idea for the unit, which cost in the region of €17,000 to purchase, was first mooted around two years ago for use in search and recovery operations.
Purchased from Swedish company Deep Vision, Matt said this would not have been possible without the generosity of different groups who helped provide funding for the new unit.
These included the Fermoy Post 25 Irish UN Veterans Association and Cork County Council with money also coming from donations through the local District Court.
"We are also thankful to the many other individuals and groups who helped by donating money to our fundraising campaign,"
Many of those who helped raise money for the scanner were invited to a recent meeting at the SAC clubhouse for an overview of the scanner and the role it will play in search and rescue operations.
David Carey, search and rescue officer with the Blackwater SAC, summed up the value of the new technology to divers.
"This will speed up the entire search and rescue operation by providing us with potential search areas, thereby utilising search divers in the most productive manner possible," said Mr Carey.
"An area that might previously have taken a full team of divers three days to search, can now be done in a matter of hours," he added.