Galway Bay – What Lies Beneath?

A new deep sea exhibition will be on display in Galway Atlantaquaria on Saturday 8th December 2001. The display has been presented by the Marine Institute and will show what Ireland’s seabed would look like if you took the water out. A special focus will be on a seabed survey that was conducted in Galway Bay during the summer.

The Bay was recently subject to close scrutiny, when a team of scientists lead by the Marine Institute, used the latest technology to map the sea floor from the national Research Vessel, Celtic Voyager. The detailed information collected will be made into maps that will benefit fishermen, sailors and geologists. This information is important because the most recent maps of this area are over 100 years old.

"Safety at sea is always a priority," said Minister Fahey when he presented maps of the approaches to Galway Harbour to Capt. Brian Sheridan, Galway Harbourmaster. "The up to date information presented in these maps will make it safer and easier for sailors to navigate their vessels into Galway Bay," he said.

The survey focused on three main regions, the area between Inishmore and Connemara Coast, the scallop grounds between Inishmaan and Inisheer and the approaches to Galway Harbour. The information gathered about water depths and rocks on the seabed will help geologists to understand what types of rock Galway Bay is made of and how it was formed.

"We used a ‘multi-beam sonar echosounder’ to ‘view’ the seabed through the water," said Margaret Wilson, Chief Scientist - Marine Institute. This sounds very hi-tech but in simple terms it sends out sound waves as the ship moves through the water. These sound waves are reflected when they hit the sea floor and all the signals are gathered by the multi-beam computer that is on board the ship. These data are then used to build a picture of the seabed," she explained.

The results of the study also revealed information on scallop grounds. This will assist fishermen target scallop beds more precisely and help avoid excess trawling of the seabed, which can have an impact on the environment. It will be of great benefit to fisheries scientists in the sustainable management of these stocks.

The Marine Institute has set up the ‘Deep Sea Display’ in the Atlantaquaria, Salthill as part of the Galway Science and Technology Festival. The Research Vessel Celtic Voyager, which was used during the survey will also be open to the public in Galway Docks from 11h00 – 15h00 on Sunday 9th December 2001.