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TV documentary Ireland’s Deep Atlantic will feature in new online classroom resources for Junior Cert students, it has been announced.

Ireland’s Deep Atlantic — produced by Sea Fever Productions and supported by the Marine Institute, BAI and the Environmental Protection Agency — sees filmmaker Ken O'Sullivan embark on a series of voyages in the North Atlantic in search of blue whales, sharks and deep-water coral reefs.

O’Sullivan filmed part of the series on board the Marine Institute’s research vessel the RV Celtic Explorer and documented coral reefs at a depth of 3,000 metres using the ROV Holland 1.

The series joins two other Irish-produced and publicly funded TV programmes used to create the new online classroom resources.

Business Studies students will use the series, including video clips of the RV Celtic Explorer and scientists, to learn about consumer behaviour and sustainable development, and the impact of economic growth on society and the environment.

Geography students, meanwhile, will learn about the ‘Real Map of Ireland’ and the importance of Ireland's ocean territory. The students will also learn about the exploitation of water, fish stocks, forestry, and soil and the relationships between the physical world, tourism and transport.

Ken O’Sullivan welcomed the new resources, saying: “It’s just wonderful now to realise that every teenager in Ireland will see our beautiful, fertile oceans and learn not just about the rich life within them, but the impact of human behaviour on our oceans with things like consumer spending habits, marine plastics and also the value of eco-tourism to coastal communities.

“Ireland’s Deep Atlantic is the first documentary to be used in this way and the platform has now been built for RTÉ to host many more publicly funded documentaries in this way for the secondary school education curriculum.”

Teachers and students can access the educational material and the programme clips referenced from the RTÉ Learn website.

Published in Maritime TV

The annual Irish Groundfish Survey (IGFS 2019) will take place off the North, West and South Coasts for six weeks from 31 October.

Carried out by the Marine Institute, the IGFS is a demersal trawl survey consisting of around 170 fishing hauls, each of of 30 minutes’ duration, in ICES areas VIa, VIIb, VIIg and VIIj.

As part of the requirements for the 2019 survey, fishing will take place within a 2-nautical-mile radius of indicated positions.

The survey will be conducted by the RV Celtic Explorer (callsign EIGB) which will display appropriate lights and signals.

The vessel will be towing a high headline GOV 36/47 demersal trawl during fishing operations.

IGFS 2019

Co-ordinates and approximate locations of these hauls are included in Marine Notice No 47 of 2019, a PDF of which is available to read or download HERE.

The Marine Institute requests that commercial fishing and other marine operators keep a 2nm area around the tow mid-points clear of any gear or apparatus during the survey period between Thursday 31 October and Friday 14 December.

This survey follows the annual Irish Anglerfish and Megrim Survey which was conducted off the West South West and South Coasts in March.

Published in Fishing

Marine scientists from University College Cork have discovered plastic at the bottom of a deep submarine canyon while investigating cold-water coral habitats.

UCC’s Marine Geology Research Group has been investigating cold-water coral habitats in the Porcupine Bank Canyon, some 320km due west of Dingle, on a research expedition led by UCC’s Dr Aaron Lim on board the Marine Institute’s RV Celtic Explorer.

The team had recovered eight novel monitoring stations, called ‘landers’, worth €450,000 and deployed between 700m and 2500m water depth by the Marine Institute’s Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) Holland 1 earlier this summer.

The monitoring stations record the speed, temperatures and direction of the currents around these habitats as well as trapping samples of the food, sediments and microplastic being deposited around the corals, to understand conditions and how the corals are coping with changing oceans.

The researchers found plastic in the bottom of one canyon at 2,125m water depth — as deep as ten Eiffel Towers stacked on top of one another.

The reach of human plastic waste is now confirmed as this deep, even 320km offshore.

“It’s always sad to see plastic rubbish in these otherwise pristine habitats. It’s quite incredible that our plastic waste can get this far out and so deep in the oceans,” said Professor Andy Wheeler of UCC, who has pioneered research on cold-water coral mounds offshore of Ireland over the past 20 years.

“I don’t think people think about this when that dump their rubbish. We’re also trying to see if microplastics are being fed to the corals from above. We’ve just got the samples; let’s hope we're wrong.”

“ROVROV Holland 1 recovering one of the monitoring stations | Photo: UCC

The Porcupine Bank Canyon is teeming with a whole range of cold-water coral habitats, just on Ireland’s doorstep, says Dr Lim.

“The environment is much more dynamic than we thought, with two of the monitoring stations knocked over by the currents; food supply for the coral is variable but the corals are doing okay.

“Some of these habitats have existed for millions of years and have grown so large they resemble hills made of coral, called coral mounds.

“This is the first time eight of these monitoring stations have been deployed and collected using the ROV Holland 1. It will provide scientists with an insight into the processes affecting these cold-water coral habitats, food sources and the impact of microplastics.”

Dr Lim said Ireland’s cold-water coral reefs are found in the cold, dark ocean at water depths of 600m to 1,000m along our continental margin.

“Not only is this expedition vital for understanding these habitats and our impact upon them, it also acts as a baseline to start monitoring how our deep-water habitats here are changing,” he added.

The team has a research agenda which will see them return to the canyon and other habitats alike for a number of years, to monitor the changes in the environment around these habitats. The monitoring stations will be brought back to UCC for detailed analyses.

This research survey is carried out with the support of the Marine Institute, funded under the Marine Research Programme 2014-2020 by the Government to support and promote the Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance, which facilitates common research and knowledge exchange for us to provide healthy, resilient oceans for our future generations.

The survey has also received funding from Science Foundation Ireland, Geological Survey Ireland and UCC.

Published in Marine Science

A shark species previously unrecorded in Irish waters has been sighted in the Celtic Sea.

A smooth hammerhead shark was reported on the edge of the continental shelf, south-west of Ireland, during a recent fisheries survey on the Marine Institute’s RV Celtic Explorer.

The sighting was made by experienced marine mammal observer John Power and bird observer Paul Connaughton during the Marine Institute’s Western European Shelf Pelagic Acoustic Survey (WESPAS).

“While scanning the ocean surface, we sighted a dorsal fin unlike anything we had encountered before,” said Power.

“It was quite different to the fins seen on basking sharks and blue sharks. After consulting available ID keys, we agreed that the shark must be a smooth hammerhead.”

The large, tall and slender dorsal fin of the smooth hammerhead shark distinguishes it from other shark species. The smooth hammerhead also has a single-notch in the centre of its rounded head and is up to four metres in length.

The species gives birth to live young and the pups are usually found in the shallow sandy waters near Florida, the Caribbean and West Africa. However, the species has been recorded as far north as England and Wales.

The smooth hammerhead was sighted during the WESPAS survey, which surveys the waters from France to Scotland and the West of Ireland each year.

Marine scientists collect acoustic and biological data on herring, boarfish and horse mackerel, which is used to provide an independent measure of these fish stocks in Irish waters. Scientists also monitor plankton, sea birds and marine mammals during this survey.

This is an exciting encounter, especially since a rare deep-water shark nursery was discovered by Irish scientists last year

Dr Paul Connolly, director of fisheries and ecosystems services at the Marine Institute, said: “Our Irish waters support a range of marine life and diverse ecosystems, including 35 known species of sharks.

“This is an exciting encounter, especially since a rare deep-water shark nursery, 200 miles west of Ireland, was discovered by Irish scientists last year using the Marine Institute's Remotely Operated Vehicle [ROV Holland 1].”

He added: “This sighting of a new shark species shows the importance of our fishery surveys to monitor our marine environment, and to observe changes in our oceans and marine ecosystems.

“Observing and understanding a changing ocean, is essential for protecting and managing our marine ecosystems for the future.”

The hammerhead shark poses little risk to humans, and there have been no known fatalities from hammerhead sharks anywhere in the world to date.

The species is listed as Vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, and is being increasingly targeted for the shark fin trade as its large fins are highly valued.

Thirty-five species of sharks have been recorded in Irish waters, including the blue shark, porbeagle shark, lesser spotted dogfish and the second-largest shark in the world, the basking shark — a regular visitor inshore during the summer months.

Published in Marine Wildlife

The first in a series of hydrographic and geophysical surveys to be undertaken in the Celtic Sea and Atlantic Ocean under the INFOMAR programme between April and October 2019 is now under way.

The RV Celtic Voyager (callsign EIQN) set off on Friday 12 April for an 18-day survey, the first of four over the next five months 18 May-6 June, 12-28 July, 29 August-14 September).

The RV Celtic Explorer (callsign EIGB) will follow up with an 18-day survey from 21 September to 8 October. Both vessels will be towing a magnetometer sensor with a single cable of up to 200 metres in length.

Other survey vessel involved include the Geological Survey Ireland vessels RV Keary (callsign EI-GO-9), RV Geo (callsign EI-DK-6), RV Mallet (callsign EI-SN-9) and RV Lir (callsign EI-HI-2).

All will display appropriate lights and markers and will be listening on VHF Channel 16 throughout the course of the surveys.

Full details of the survey areas are included in Marine Notice No 8 of 2019, a PDF of which is available to read or download HERE.

Published in Marine Science

Children from Rang 2 at Scoil Shéamais Naofa in Bearna got up close and personal with sharks on the RV Celtic Explorer as part of the Marine Institute’s outreach and engagement programme.

The pupils completed a project module on sharks in Irish waters as part of the Marine Institute’s Explorers Education Programme, and also had the opportunity to visit the State research vessel.

Outreach officer Padraic Creedon of the Explorers Education Programme said one if the programme’s unique elements “is the content and support provided to teachers in the classroom in an easy and fun way.

“The students were inspired by the discovery of a rare shark nursery 200 miles off the west coast of Ireland in 2018, and we were delighted to create lessons, interactive experiments and discussion about the ocean, sharks and their environment for the class.”

While on board the RV Celtic Explorer, pupils met with the captain and scientists and saw what it might be like to work on a research vessel.

Students spoke with Captain Denis Ronan about the Celtic Explorer, and learn more about the acoustically silent ship that can stay out at sea for up to 35 days.

The pupils were excited to tour the vessel and speak with marine scientists to discover more about shark species, seabed mapping, shipwrecks and the marine environment.

Visiting the dry and wet labs, the pupils saw various fish species from recent surveys and shark species, such as dogfish and the tope shark.

Clár Ní Bhraonáin, teacher at Scoil Shéamais Naofa, said: “It has been an amazing experience … Students don’t forget days like this.”

The Explorers programme offers a range of materials including lesson plans to conduct experiments in class, watching films that helps generate discussion, and peer learning among pupils.

“Because of the students’ enthusiasm to learn more about sharks, we have been able to incorporate marine themes across the curriculum, where they have excelled and produced some incredible work, from writing books about sharks to a series of posters and artwork,” Ní Bhraonáin added.

“This project has really helped myself and the students learn more about the ocean.”

For more information on the Explorers Education outreach centres, visit the Explorers Contacts page at Explorers.ie. The programme is supported by the Marine Institute and is funded under the Marine Research Programme by the Government.

Published in Marine Wildlife

The annual Anglerfish and Megrim Survey has begun off the West South West and South Coasts of Ireland in fulfilment of Ireland’s Common Fisheries Policy obligations.

The purpose of this project is to carry out annual survey for relative annual abundance and distribution of anglerfish and megrim. However, other species of national
importance will also be sampled, along with physical and chemical oceanographic parameters.

IAMS 2019 runs till Monday 25 March. The demersal trawl survey consists of around 110 otter trawls (of 60 minutes each) in ICES areas 7b, 7c, 7g, 7h, 7j and 7k as indicated the map below.

MN 06 of 2019 IAMS 2019

Fishing in 2019 will take place within a three-nautical-mile radius of all positions indicated.

The survey will be conducted by the RV Celtic Explorer (Callsign: EIGB). The vessel will display all appropriate lights and signals during the survey and will also be listening on VHF Channel 16. The vessel will be towing a Jackson demersal trawl during fishing operations.

Commercial fishing and other marine operators are requested to keep a 3nm area around the tow points clear of any gear or apparatus during the survey period. For more details see Marine Notice No 6 of 2019, a PDF of which is available to read or download HERE.

Published in Fishing

Shipwrecks off the Irish coast are acting as artificial reefs for corals usually found much deeper in the Atlantic.

That’s according to NUI Galway ocean scientist Anthony Grehan, who told the Irish Examiner about his recent surprising find at the wreck of a cargo vessel 160 metres below the surface.

Using the new submersible robot Étáin from the University of Limerick, Grehan and a team on the RV Celtic Explorer found examples of the stony coral species lophelia pertusa, which usually found at depths of 500 metres or more.

And the new discovery suggests that such wrecks may provide the necessary stability for deep-water corals to thrive in shallower waters.

The Irish Examiner has much more on the story HERE.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#MarineScience - The new mission to Ireland’s offshore reaches to monitor seismic activity on the North Atlantic floor is to engage with schools while at sea.

As previously covered on Afloat.ie, scientists from the Dublin Institute for Advances Studies (DIAS) departed last Monday 17 September, on board the RV Celtic Explorer, for the three-week voyage that will see them deploy a network of 18 seismometers as part of the SEA-SEIS project.

Daniel Farrell is reporting on their work via the RV Celtic Explorer’s blog [email protected].

“I am looking forward to sharing first-hand what it’s like being on a research vessel such as the RV Celtic Explorer,” says Farrell, of CoastMonkey.ie and sponsored by DIAS and the Marine Institute.

“I have a passion for the sea, and will be filming the scientists, writing content for the blog as well as taking photos of all of the activities where everyone can keep up to date with what is happening.”

Students and teachers can engage with the mission through Farrell’s blog posts as well as with a range of resources and videos available on the SEA-SEIS website.

“The SEA-SEIS team have also organised a range of activities that both primary and secondary schools can take part in over the next couple of months,” Farrell adds.

“There are teaching resources and lesson plans from the Explorers Education Programme, as well as some great competitions involving a drawing competition and composing a rap song.”

Published in Marine Science

#MarineScience - Researchers from the Dublin Institute for Advances Studies (DIAS) departed Cobh yesterday (Monday 17 September) on the RV Celtic Explorer with a mission to monitor seismic activity on the North Atlantic Ocean floor.

As Silicon Republic reports, the SEA-SEIS project will deploy 18 seismometers over the next three weeks to form a network that will cover Ireland’s offshore area.

These sensors will collect data over the next two years, measuring tiny vibrations from seismic and ocean waves that will inform 3D models to unveil the mysteries below the sea bed.

DIAS is partnering with the Marine Institute, Geological Survey of Ireland, Science Foundation Ireland and Irish Centre for Research in Applied Geosciences (iCRAG) on the SEA-SEIS mission that will use acoustic sensors developed by the iMARL deep ocean listening project.

“The geological evolution of Ireland’s offshore territory is fascinating, but there is still so much of it to be explored,” said Prof Chris Bean, a specialist in geophysics at DIAS.

He added the SEA-SEIS project means that for the first time “we will be able to make long-term direct observations of the interactions between our oceans and solid Earth in this region.”

Silicon Republic has more on the story HERE.

Published in Marine Science
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