Irish vessel deployed to map seabed off Newfoundland

Survey will focus on area where first trans-Atlantic cable laid in 1857

Irish marine research vessel RV Celtic Explorer has been deployed from Newfoundland to map the seafloor between Canada and Ireland.

Irish marine research vessel RV Celtic Explorer has been deployed from Newfoundland to map the seafloor between Canada and Ireland.

 

Irish marine research vessel RV Celtic Explorer has been deployed from Newfoundland to map the seafloor between Canada and Ireland under a new European, Canadian and US research alliance.

The survey will focus on an area known as the “great circle route” between Ireland and Newfoundland where the first trans-Atlantic cable was deployed in 1857.

The research is taking place as part of an Atlantic Ocean research alliance formed two years ago.

Scientists from Canada’s Fisheries and Marine Institute of Memorial University of Newfoundland will work with counterparts from Ireland’s national seabed mapping programme at the Marine Institute and Geological Survey of Ireland.

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the Portuguese Institute for Sea and Atmosphere (IPMA) are also involved in the programme, which will use multi-beam echo sounders onboard the vessel to collect ocean mapping data.

The Marine Institute says that the multinational team will gather information on the physical characteristics of the seafloor, such as water depth, hardness, roughness, and the presence of geohazards.

It points out that the structure and composition of the “near sub-surface” are key considerations for shipping safety, development-related seabed engineering and sustainable fisheries.

The team hopes to map the location where the 1857 cable was dropped in the mid-Atlantic, which happened to coincide with what it describes as the “most dramatic topographic feature in the north Atlantic, the Charlie Gibbs Fracture Zone”.

The fracture zone, which took 90 million years to grow,is named after a US weather station and a research vessel.

It extends over 2,000km between Newfoundland and south-west Ireland, and is regarded as the most prominent geological feature of its type between the Azores and Iceland.

The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador has invested approximately $5 million in expeditions by the Celtic Explorer since 2010 to support fisheries science activities.