International team to map Atlantic on RV Celtic Explorer

TRASNA crew onboard the RV Celtic ExplorerThe R.V. Celtic Explorer set sail last night (11th May) from St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, where last June it launched the very first seabed mapping expedition under the Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance. The expedition takes place May 11-21 with graduate students and early career researchers representing Europe, Canada and the United States joining a team of international experts to map some 12000km2 of un-surveyed seafloor from the deepest parts of the Atlantic Ocean. Ireland's national seabed mapping programme, INFOMAR launched a travel bursary called the Atlantic Seabed Mapping scholarship, AtSeaMap, to help support student researchers to come onboard.

This is the fourth seabed mapping survey to take place under the Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance. Xavier Monteys, Geological Survey of Ireland, will lead a team of 12 international scientists, who will map a transect of the Atlantic seafloor between St. John's, Newfoundland, and Galway, Ireland. Together they will investigate discoveries from previous expeditions, while training the next generation of young seabed mappers through an innovative series of ocean research training delivered on-board.

Koen Verbruggen, Director, Geological Survey of Ireland (GSI) and Dr Peter Heffernan, CEO Marine Institute, the partner organisations delivering INFOMAR, the national seabed mapping programme, welcomed the survey and the introduction of AtSeaMap.

Koen Verbruggen said: "The INFOMAR scholarship, supporting European, US, and Canadian student participation, is a key step towards developing expertise, sharing knowledge, and raising awareness of the integral role of the Atlantic Ocean in each and every one of our daily lives."

Dr Peter Heffernan added, "The Atlantic Ocean influences our lives in many different ways from climate, environment, energy, transport, telecommunications, to food on our tables. It's our maritime highway. Amazingly, we just don't yet have the roadmap. AtSeaMap provides a unique opportunity for students from Europe, Canada and the USA to be part of a significant initiative to begin to build comprehensive maps of the Atlantic Ocean. "

The survey supports the Galway Statement on Atlantic Ocean Cooperation, the goals of which are to join the resources of its three signatories to better understand the North Atlantic Ocean, to promote sustainable management of its resources, and to promote citizens' understanding of the Atlantic through ocean literacy.

Dr Heffernan, who is the coordinator of the Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance Coordination and Support Action, added "This survey and those to follow will make a significant contribution towards delivering on commitments made in the Galway Statement and represent an important stepping stone to building a comprehensive mapping campaign for the Atlantic Ocean." L-R Fabio sacchetti,peter MacIntosh, Rachel Wireman, Jamie Maxwell, Xavier Monteys

The survey is called TRASNA, which is the Irish word for "crossing" and stands for Trans-Atlantic Survey North-Atlantic. The scientific team and students will blog about their experience on the RV Celtic Explorer on where you can follow their progress across the Atlantic or use #TRASNA.

The early stage researchers joining the survey as part of the AtSeaMap initiative are Jamie Maxwell, National University of Ireland Galway, Ireland; Peter MacIntosh, Memorial University, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada; and Rachel Wireman, College of Charleston, USA.

The Canadian Coast Guard vessel Louis St. Laurent will build on this work later this summer sailing from Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada on 22nd July and arriving in Tromsø, Norway on 5th  August.

The INFOMAR Atlantic Seabed Mapping scholarship, AtSeaMap, is funded by the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources.

The Marine Institute is leading the Horizon 2020 funded project -The Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance Coordination and Support Action – to support the implementation of the Galway Statement, signed at the Marine Institute, Oranmore 24th May 2013.

Listen here to Xavier and Jamie's interview on ClareFM on Thursday, 19th May.


Notes to editors

About the Atlantic Ocean Reasearch Alliance Cordination and Support Action

The Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance Coordination and Support Action (AORA-CSA) aims to support the implementation of the Galway Statement.

The Galway Statement, signed at the Marine Institute Galway 24th May 2013, established a formal Atlantic Ocean Research Cooperation between the European Union, its Member States, the United States of America and Canada and partner countries that builds on existing initiatives and programmes to increase coherence and coordination of ocean research cooperation.

The following priority research areas adopted by the Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance were identified in the Galway Statement:

  • Marine ecosystem-approach
  • Observing systems
  • Marine biotechnology
  • Aquaculture
  • Ocean literacy - engaging with society
  • Seabed and benthic habitat mapping

Objectives of the AORA-CSA:

  • Implementation of the Galway Statement and support Atlantic Ocean Cooperation.
  • Improvement in the international cooperation framework of marine research programmes - creating the basis for the development of future large-scale joint international marine research programmes.
  • Establishment of a long term knowledge sharing platform for easy access to available information and data holding international research significance for Ocean Management.

 For more information see