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Friday 24 November 2017

State's research ship plunges to new depths to discover secrets of the sea

A 3-D image of the underwater mountain mapped by the team
A 3-D image of the underwater mountain mapped by the team
Mark O'Regan

Mark O'Regan

In what has been described as a "world first" tracts of the Atlantic seabed have been mapped by the State's research ship the MV Celtic Explorer.

The research will also trace the route taken by ships which provided an historic transatlantic telecommunications cable in 1857. This provided the first techno connection of its kind between Ireland and Newfoundland in Canada.

Footprints of icebergs moving across the seabed, an ancient glacial moraine, and a mountain higher than Carrauntoohil in Co Kerry, have already been mapped as part of the Atlantic research experiment. More than 10,000sq km of the Atlantic was covered in under a week.

"We know now why that first cable didn't last," said Marine Institute geophysicist, Tommy Furey.

New evidence highlighting the many difficulties facing the ships involved is included in a number of three-dimensional seabed images provided by the research.

There were five attempts to lay the first communications link between Europe and the US. However, the ships taking part had little of the crucial "hydrographic information" now available to show the hazards involved.

A vital part of the research programme is that the Celtic Explorer team used the latest multi-beam echo sounder technology in the survey.

This allowed features already identified in satellite images to be charted in far greater detail than they could have been even 15 years ago.

The research charted a 3.7km high underwater mountain, which is more than 140km long, and in total more than 10,000sq km of the Atlantic was covered in a matter of days.

A number of scientific and marine agencies have been involved in this project, and Marine Institute chief executive Dr Peter Heffernan said the State hoped to build on this survey next year.

Labelled "Atlantic Transect", all the experiment findings, will be announced in Cork on July 10-11 at the "Harnessing Our Ocean Wealth" conference.

Irish Independent

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