A EUROFLEETS eleven day cruise called AmSeDIS (Amplified Growth of Sediment Waves in the Irish Sea) was successfully carried out on board the RV Celtic Voyager in the Irish Sea recently (9th - 19th of April 2012).
"EUROFLEETS aims to provide access to research vessels for all European scientists and their partners on the sole condition of scientific excellence covering all fields of marine science from environmental and biodiversity protection, to coastal zone management, geodynamics and climate change research," explained Mick Gillooly from Ocean Science and Information Services at the Marine Institute.
Fully funded by the EU, the EUROFLEETS project provides marine scientists with 66 days of ship time on five global/ocean class research vessels and 110 days of ship time on 13 regional class ships. As the Marine Institute are partners in EUROFLEETS, two cruises on board the national research vessels have been funded by EUROFLEETS and made available for 2012.
The first survey, lead by Chief Scientist for the Dr. Katrien Van Landeghem from the University of Liverpool was assisted by six scientists from five European universities including the University of Basel, Bangor University, Dublin City University and the University of Genoa. The survey received additional funding from the Petroleum Affairs Division of the Irish Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources as well as University of Liverpool.
Large sediment waves under the sea are striking and have been recorded to reach up to 38m in height and have been documented to migrate up to 70m per year. The formation and dynamics of the very large sediment waves have rarely been the focus of in-depth scientific studies.
"Therefore the objectives of this survey on the RV Celtic Voyager aim to increase the understanding of the inter-linkages between grain size variability, gas seepage and the prevailing hydrodynamics in sediment wave behaviour," said Dr. Van Landeghem.
It is often difficult to model sediment waves development and migration due to the interplay between geological, biogeochemical and hydrodynamic processes that are likely to influence their formation, migrations, and extreme growth.
"Due the nature of movement of sediment waves, they can also endanger the stability of important infrastructure such as pylons, cables and pipes on and beneath the seabed. Therefore it is important to study this natural occurrence which can also result in a highly mobile benthic habitat with implications for navigation and safety," Dr. Van Landeghem further explained.
The team of marine geoscientists, geochemists and numerical modellers from the UK, Italy, Switzerland and Ireland collected 200 grab samples and water samples. They also obtained 65km of Boomer seismic data and 45km of sparker data with the multibeam EM1002 operating at depths of up to 150m.
The results of the successful cruise are currently undergoing analysis in which the main conclusions will be available at a later stage on the Eurofleets webpage: www.eurofleets.eu.
A second survey ECO2@NorthSea will take place in July on board the ocean class vessel, the RV Celtic Explorer.