Marine Scientists on the RV Celtic Explorer have collected a network of seismometers recording valuable data over the past 19 months in Irish, British and Icelandic waters.
The 18 seismometers had been deployed in 2018 over a 1500 kilometre area from north to south and over 1,000 km of sea from east to west as part of a project run by the Dublin Institute of Advanced Studies (DIAS).
As Afloat previously reported, a “skeleton” team of six scientists and a small crew on the Marine Institute research vessel went to sea last month to retrieve them and returned to Galway this week after three weeks at sea.
Team leader Dr Sergei Lebedev, DIAS seismologist, said the data captured by the seismometers would “shed light on the nature, occurrence, and frequency of earthquakes off our coast, and is fundamental to our understanding of them”.
“The current nature and history of the ocean floor along Ireland's coast is key to our understanding of how the Atlantic evolved and is evolving, and this is important for better understanding both the natural hazards and natural resources offshore," he said.
"For example, slope failures triggered by earthquakes can generate tsunamis in the Irish offshore territory – the data will give us new insights into this hazard,” he said.
The expedition was “time-critical”, as there were fears the data would be lost if the sensors were not retrieved. Physical distancing measures as part of HSE guidelines on the Covid-19 pandemic were in place for the expedition, according to the DIAS team.
"The seismometers have waterproof memory sticks with recordings of earthquakes off the coast of Ireland. To date, these have been poorly understood, but we know they are generally larger than the ones Ireland has onshore. The new data will give us much greater insights into earthquake mechanisms and, also, into the structure of the Earth's interior,” Dr Lebedev said.
"The instruments have made continuous recordings from the last 19 months of the songs of the great baleen whales, including the blue, fin, humpback and North Atlantic right whales. These unique recordings will build our understanding of the migration patterns of the Earth's largest animals and their acoustic environment, known to be crucially important for them,” he said.
Before the seismometers were deployed in 2018, DIAS ran a competition inviting secondary school students to name each one. Suggestions included “The Dude”, “Gráinne”, “Luigi” and “The Loch Ness Mometer”.
During the retrieval expedition, the research team hosted live video links with school classes from St Francis National School in Wicklow, along with St Joseph's College in Tipperary, and a school in Calabria, Italy.