Displaying items by tag: Atlantic Ocean
#MarineWildlife - Marine scientists have found new discoveries after returning to Galway Port, having spent three weeks at sea investigating Ireland's deep ocean territory 300 miles off the west coast. The deep sea expedition involved the Marine Institute's remotely operated vehicle (ROV) Holland 1 onboard the Commmissioners of Irish Lights ILV Granuaile.
The high definition ROV-mounted video captured a number of 'firsts' in Irish waters, including a species of octocoral of the genus Corallium, which grows into huge fans with a delicate porcelain-like skeleton, and a species of black coral different to others described to date, which may prove to be an entirely new species.
The survey confirmed Irish deep-waters as a haven for these rare and delicate deep-sea black corals. The team of scientists also reported areas of potential 'sponge reef' on the Rockall Bank, a highly unusual accumulation of living and dead sponges forming a complex habitat for many other creatures. Such formations are very rare and have previously only been recorded in Canadian waters.
Cold water coral reefs are ecosystems that host a diverse range of marine animals including sea fans, sponges, worms, starfish, crustaceGorgonocephalus - An Ophiuroid Basket starans and a variety of fish species, making them vitally important habitats for marine biodiversity. These fragile deepwater reefs are commonly associated with topographic features subject to strong bottom currents, for example continental margins, seamounts and mid-ocean ridges, because as filter feeders, the corals depend on suspended food particulate matter. The high resolution bathymetric dataset acquired as part of the national seabed mapping programme –Integrated Mapping For the Sustainable Development of Ireland's Marine Resource (INFOMAR) - was used to target potential locations of reef habitat for this survey by identifying specific seabed morphological features likely to support cold water coral. The last two decades have seen a dramatic increase in our understanding of the cold water coral reef ecosystems, their susceptibility to environmental change, and their low resilience to human impact.
Chief Scientist on the SeaRover survey, David O'Sullivan, Marine Institute said: "We are very pleased to discover what appear to be new coral species and a rare sponge reef, neither of which have been previously documented in Irish waters. These sensitive habitats are very important and this study is key to getting a better understanding of Irelands' deep sea. Our key objective is to discover, protect and monitor Ireland's rich offshore marine biodiversity so we can manage our marine resources effectively. Without a knowledge of what lives on our seabed we are at risk of never fully understanding and appreciating Ireland's invaluable marine environment."
Dr Kerry Howell, Plymouth University said: "This is the first time I have seen a sponge reef like this in nearly 20 years of studying the deep NE Atlantic. This is an important find. Sponges play a key role in the marine ecosystem providing habitat for other species and recycling nutrients. They may even be a source of new antibiotics. These new data will help ROV Holland 1. Picture Credit Aodhan Fitzgeraldus to better understand where and why these reefs occur."
Prof. Louise Allcock, NUI Galway, who is funded by Science Foundation Ireland and the Marine Institute to study the pharmaceutical potential of deep-sea corals and sponges added: 'This project highlights collaboration and cooperation between Irish and international marine scientists, helping us to further our understanding of these sensitive ecosystems and has also been able to provide training opportunities and sea-going experience for young scientists.
The 'SeaRover' survey is the second of three planned expeditions jointly funded by the Irish Government and the EU's European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF). The cross government initiative is supported by the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine, Department of Culture, Heritage and Gaeltacht, and Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment (DCCAE) as part of the Marine Institute's implementation of the Marine Biodiversity scheme.
Survey operations were coordinated and led by the DCCAE funded INFOMAR programme, which is a joint venture between the Geological Survey Ireland and the Marine Institute. This year's expedition extended the habitat exploration area to the Rockall Bank, the farthest offshore extent of Ireland's Economic Exclusive Zone. Scientific experts onboard to witness the exciting findings were from the Marine Institute, National Parks and Wildlife Service, National University of Ireland Galway and Plymouth University.
#MarineScience - The Atlantic Ocean: Our Unknown Treasure was on the agenda at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in San Jose, California on Saturday 14 February.
Marine Institute chief executive Dr Peter Heffernan joined European Commission officials and leading scientists from the USA, Europe and Canada to discuss how to explore the largely unknown Atlantic Ocean; how new technologies can help us to challenge our understanding of the planet; and how new observation and visualisation tools can improve what we know about the seabed and inform science to help shape future marine policy.
The event built on the Galway Statement on Atlantic Ocean Research Co-operation signed at the Marine Institute in May 2013 by representatives from the EU, Canada and the US, launching an Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance.
Its goals are to better understand the Atlantic and the Arctic, to study the interplay between them, particularly relating to climate change, and to promote sustainable management of their resources.
Speaking about the event, Dr Heffernan said: "It's an exciting time, as all sides - European, US and Canadian - have shown engagement, planning and commitment to driving the Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance forward and preparing joint actions.
"There are very real global challenges to be tackled, and there is strong momentum now to create significant benefits such as better ecosystem assessments and forecasts and deeper understandings of vulnerabilities and risks.
"These transatlantic collaborations will also help to generate new tools to increase resilience and adaptation and to conserve our rich biodiversity. We also really need to foster public understanding of how ocean science and observation will address pressing issues for citizens and for the environment."
Dr Heffernan concluded: "The AAAS meeting gave an opportunity to see some of the collaborations that are undertaken in the Atlantic Ocean and discuss challenges for future research, technological developments, mapping and imaging as well as research co-operation across the Atlantic."
#GhostShip - It was an unsettling discovery for a Donegal skipper to happen upon a deserted yacht drifting in the Atlantic Ocean last week.
As BBC News reports, the unmanned vessel materialised in fog off Downings harbour in the north-west of the county, evoking memories of the famous Mary Celeste.
Fearing the worst, local charter boat operator Michael McVeigh sent two divers abroad to investigate, and all they found were rotting food and an e-mail address left on a note on the table.
But the mystery was soon solved after McVeigh contacted Malin Head coastguard - who confirmed that the yacht's owner had been rescued some 600 miles west of Galway.
The yachtsman had been sailing on a "dream trip" from his home in the Azores towards Iceland when he encountered difficulties and used his satellite phone to call for help.
He was later picked up by a passing freighter, leaving his yacht to drift.
BBC News has more on the tale here.
The news comes in the wake of a groundbreaking deal signed in Galway on Friday afternoon (24 May) between the EU, the US and Canada to join forces on Atlantic Ocean research, as previously reported on Afloat.ie.
All partners have agreed to commit to funding to study the interplay of the Atlantic with the Arctic Ocean, and discover ways that research on the oceans and marine wildlife can contribute to scientific advances in other areas.
Meanwhile, a monitoring system for waste waters is among the projects that will benefit from a near €1 million in funding from the Science Foundation.
Research Minister Seán Sherlock announced the funding for projects at NUI Galway that is hoped to deliver "commercialisation of research in a range of areas".
The Irish Independent reports on the findings by the Dublin-based company which show enormous reserves of oil in the Porcupine Basin off the south-west coast.
As previously reported on Afloat.ie, the company said in September that it has identified a number of targets across the more than 1,400 sq km area of the Atlantic Ocean west of Dursey Island.
Technical studies conducted then on blocks in the northern and eastern parts of the basin for reservoir sands were described as "encouraging".
Now Petrel says that computer analysis shows several oil fields stacked in layers that could be tapped by a smaller number of oil wells.
The distance from shore - approximately 200km - plus the location of the oil reserves beneath 1km of water and a further 3km of rock present some difficulties, but new techniques in the oil industry are allowing previously undrillable resources to be extracted.
Petrel Resources is seeking a partner to invest in drilling for oil, and is preparing its application to the Government for a licence.
The Irish Independent has more on the story HERE.
The containers are said to have slipped from the deck of the MSC Flaminia, a German-registered cargo vessel which caught fire on 14 July in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, with the loss of two crew and forcing the rest to abandon ship.
The vessel had been en route from North Carolina in the United States to Brememhaven in northern Germany when the incident occurred.
Among the thousands of containers it was carrying were 149 classed as 'dangerous goods', their exact nature not yet confirmed, and it is thought some of these are among the containers that fell into the sea and went missing as the ship listed in mid-ocean.
As reported by the Maritime Bulletin, there was some speculation as to whether the missing containers slipped off deck or were jettisoned.
The containers have since appeared in the main cargo shipping lanes off the southwest coast, posing a danger to transatlantic vessels.
Operations have already begun to retrieve the containers and tow them into Castletownbere in West Cork.
The Irish Examiner has more on the story HERE.
#KAYAKING - A father-and-son duo from north Co Dublin will shortly embark on an epic kayak paddle from Dublin to Donegal, the Fingal Independent reports.
Dermot Higgins and his son Fionn, from Rush, will attempt to kayak from Dublin Port to the Atlantic Ocean at Ballyshannon - a distance of some 330km - by way of the Royal Canal, the River Shannon and Lough Erne.
The Higgins' - who believe they are the first to attempt such a feat - will be completely self-sufficuent for the duration of the challenge, which is hoped to raised funds for the Rush Open Organisation for Transition Status (ROOTS), a charity that intends to help communities reduce their carbon footprint and face up to environmental challenges by encouraging sustainability.
The Fingal Independent has more on the story HERE.
#MARINE WILDLIFE - Staff and students from the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology spotted an black-browed albatross in what was a "very rare" sighting of the bird in Ireland's skies, The Irish Times reports.
The group was on board the State marine research vessel Celtic Explorer off the southwest coast when they witnessed the albatross, also known as a Mollymawk, which is noted for its dark eye stripe.
The black-browed albatross is normally restricted to the Southern Hemisphere, but Birdwatch Ireland's Niall Hatch said it has been spotted from headlands in Ireland in the past.
As previously reported on Afloat.ie, the GMIT group were among a party of 20 scientists from Ireland, Nothern Ireland and Scotland carrying out a study of whales, dolphins, seabirds and plankton in the Atlantic.
#SEA KAYAKING - Brit duo Andy Pearson and Paul A'bear will embark on a 500-mile sea kayaking voyage along Scotland's west coast this summer in aid of charity.
Canoe & Kayak UK reports that the pair will set out from the Solway Firth near the Scottish border at the end of June on the expedition that will take them through the Irish Sea to the Atlantic Ocean.
The adventure will see them paddle through "wild, stormy seas" and "some of the strongest tidal currents in the world".
Pearson and A'bear, who have been friends since primary school, hope to raise at least £1,000 for Cancer Research UK.
For more details on their adventure visit www.westcoastchallenge2012.co.uk.
The US-based helicopter firm and CHC formalised the purchase on Wednesday (21 December) with Irish Coast Guard director Chris Reynolds during a hand-over ceremony at the S-92 commercial helicopter assembly facility in Coatesville, Pennsylvania.
Equipped for dedicated search and rescue (SAR) operations, the helicopter will provide coverage for deep Atlantic Ocean missions, service Ireland's offshore islands and provide rescue cover on the west coast from Cork to Galway.
The new aircraft will be based at Shannon and will replace the current coastguard SAR helicopter, a Sikorsky S-61, which has given 20 years of unbroken service.
According to Sikorsky, the S-92 is equipped with advanced systems and hardware, including an automated flight control system that enables the pilot to fly pre-programmed search patterns and perform delicate hover manoeuvres; a wireless intercom allowing a rescue swimmer to communicate with the crew; radio transceivers to communicate with ships and rescue services; a weather radar and infrared sensor; and a digital video system to record rescues.
Reynolds said the new helicopter - which joins four second-hand machines on a 10-year lease - represents a stepped improvement in Ireland's ability to care for and service its seagoing, coastal and island communities.
"I am very happy that the Coast Guard will operate what I consider to be the leading SAR helicopter in the world," he added.
As reported earlier this year on Afloat.ie, the new chopper is part of a deal that raised questions from a Fine Gael TD over allegations that a competing tender did not have a "good reputation".
Fergus O'Dowd questioning the contract with CHC Ireland after receiving documents in which Chris Reynolds said the Air Corps – whose helicopters are supplied by AgustaWestland - were uneqipped for the role and that no cost saving would be made if they took on the service.