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Mountains in Atlantic Mapped by Celtic Explorer's Multi-National Team

10th June 2015
Mountains in Atlantic Mapped by Celtic Explorer's Multi-National Team

#UnderseaMountains - A multi-national team of ocean exploration experts from Europe, USA and Canada led by Thomas Furey, Marine Institute, has revealed previously uncharted features on the Atlantic seabed including mountains and ridges taller than Carrauntoohil, Ireland's highest mountain.

The survey onboard Ireland's national research vessel, the RV Celtic Explorer, is one of the first projects to be launched by the Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance (as previously reported) formed following the signing of the Galway Statement on Atlantic Ocean Cooperation between Canada, the EU and the US in May 2013. Its goals are to join resources of its three signatories to better understand the North Atlantic Ocean and to promote the sustainable management of its resources.

The team from Marine Institute and Geological Survey of Ireland (INFOMAR-national seabed mapping programme), the Fisheries and Marine Institute of Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada, the United States' National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the Portuguese Institute for Sea and Atmosphere (IPMA), used the latest multi-beam echo sounder
technology on the Celtic Explorer to create high resolution images of dramatic seabed features.

They uncovered 235km2 of iceberg scarred seabed, ancient glacial moraine features, and buried sediment channels on the Newfoundland and Labrador shelf. They charted a 15km long down-slope channel feature on the western Atlantic continental slope, most likely formed by meltwater run-off associated with ice cap grounding during the last glaciation, approximately 20,000 years ago. They crossed the dramatic Charlie-Gibbs Fracture Zone on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge creating a 3D visualisation of a 3.7km high underwater mountain. Continuing eastward a straight asymmetric ridge feature came to life standing proud from the flat seabed over 140km long, peaking at 1108m high, taller than Carrauntoohil.

The ambitious survey route included an area off Newfoundland and Labrador where cold water corals and sponges are known to occur and crossed the OSPAR designated Marine Protected Area in the dramatic topography of the central Atlantic. It also targeted the drop location for the first trans-Atlantic telecommunications cable laid in 1858 between Ireland and Newfoundland, and
set out to groundtruth seafloor features identified through satellite altimetry research in the last two years.

"This survey marks the beginning of an exciting Atlantic research mapping collaboration between the US, Canada and Europe. It shows what can be achieved when we pool our resources, sharing knowledge, infrastructure and technology. And we hope to build on this next year, when Ireland's R.V. Celtic Explorer will be joined by research vessels from Norway and the USA,
and in subsequent years", said Dr. Peter Heffernan, Marine Institute, Ireland.

"Seeing dramatic seabed features reveal themselves for the first time was a real highlight of the survey" said Tommy Furey, Chief Scientist, Marine Institute, Ireland. "We need to better understand the features that make up the ocean seabed. With global population and seafood demand spiralling, we need to map our seabed to define favourable habitats for fishing, key sites
for conservation, and safe navigation for shipping. Map it, manage it, and mind it."

The survey was part funded by the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador which has invested approximately $5 million in RV Celtic Explorer expeditions since 2010 to support fisheries science activities. The vessel had just completed the annual fisheries survey in Newfoundland and Labrador, which provided the opportunity to embark on the trans-Atlantic mapping survey on
the return journey to Ireland.

Results from the Atlantic Transect will be presented at the Harnessing Our Ocean Wealth conference July 10-11th, 2015 in Cork, and at the Seabed Mapping Working Group meeting preceding the event on July 9th.

Published in Marine Science
Jehan Ashmore

About The Author

Jehan Ashmore

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Jehan Ashmore is a marine correspondent, researcher and photographer, specialising in Irish ports, shipping and the ferry sector serving the UK and directly to mainland Europe. Jehan also occasionally writes a column, 'Maritime' Dalkey for the (Dalkey Community Council Newsletter) in addition to contributing to UK marine periodicals. 

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Marine Science Perhaps it is the work of the Irish research vessel RV Celtic Explorer out in the Atlantic Ocean that best highlights the essential nature of marine research, development and sustainable management, through which Ireland is developing a strong and well-deserved reputation as an emerging centre of excellence. From Wavebob Ocean energy technology to aquaculture to weather buoys and oil exploration these pages document the work of Irish marine science and how Irish scientists have secured prominent roles in many European and international marine science bodies.

 

At A Glance – Ocean Facts

  • 71% of the earth’s surface is covered by the ocean
  • The ocean is responsible for the water cycle, which affects our weather
  • The ocean absorbs 30% of the carbon dioxide added to the atmosphere by human activity
  • The real map of Ireland has a seabed territory ten times the size of its land area
  • The ocean is the support system of our planet.
  • Over half of the oxygen we breathe was produced in the ocean
  • The global market for seaweed is valued at approximately €5.4 billion
  • · Coral reefs are among the oldest ecosystems in the world — at 230 million years
  • 1.9 million people live within 5km of the coast in Ireland
  • Ocean waters hold nearly 20 million tons of gold. If we could mine all of the gold from the ocean, we would have enough to give every person on earth 9lbs of the precious metal!
  • Aquaculture is the fastest growing food sector in the world – Ireland is ranked 7th largest aquaculture producer in the EU
  • The Atlantic Ocean is the second largest ocean in the world, covering 20% of the earth’s surface. Out of all the oceans, the Atlantic Ocean is the saltiest
  • The Pacific Ocean is the largest ocean in the world. It’s bigger than all the continents put together
  • Ireland is surrounded by some of the most productive fishing grounds in Europe, with Irish commercial fish landings worth around €200 million annually
  • 97% of the earth’s water is in the ocean
  • The ocean provides the greatest amount of the world’s protein consumed by humans
  • Plastic affects 700 species in the oceans from plankton to whales.
  • Only 10% of the oceans have been explored.
  • 8 million tonnes of plastic enter the ocean each year, equal to dumping a garbage truck of plastic into the ocean every minute.
  • 12 humans have walked on the moon but only 3 humans have been to the deepest part of the ocean.

(Ref: Marine Institute)

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