Underwater 'Grand Canyon' discovered

Grand Canyon-style ocean floor hidden deep under the Red Sea produced by HMS Enterprise using state-of-the-art surveying equipment. Photograph: MoD/Crown Copyright/PA Wire

Grand Canyon-style ocean floor hidden deep under the Red Sea produced by HMS Enterprise using state-of-the-art surveying equipment. Photograph: MoD/Crown Copyright/PA Wire

Sun, Feb 24, 2013, 00:00

An underwater “Grand Canyon” has been captured in state-of-the-art images created by a British Royal Navy survey ship.

HMS Enterprise discovered the 250 metre deep canyon in the Red Sea during a nine-month mission to improve understanding of the waters east of Suez.

The 3D images were created after the ship left the Egyptian port of Safaga and were made using the UK Devonport-based survey ship’s multibeam echo sounder.

Commander Derek Rae, commanding officer of HMS Enterprise, said: “These features could be the result of ancient rivers scouring through the rock strata before the Red Sea flooded millennia ago.

“Some may be far younger and still in the process of being created by underwater currents driven by the winds and tidal streams as they flow through this area of the Red Sea, carving their way through the soft sediment and being diverted by harder bed rock.

“Or there is always the possibility that they are a combination of the two.

“It is, however, almost certain to say that this is the closest that humans will ever get to gaze upon these truly impressive sights hundreds of metres beneath the surface.”

The echo sounder, which is fitted to ship’s hull, produces the images from the echoes returning from the sound pulses it sends out.

This is a highly accurate way to measure the sea bed to determine if the depth of water is safe for navigation and shipping.

HMS Enterprise will remain in the Middle East until the summer to continue its task of updating some of the 3,300-plus Admiralty Charts which are used by many of the world’s seafarers, including the Royal Navy.

PA

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