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Revealing what lies beneath...

Have you ever looked out to sea from somewhere on the Welsh coast and wondered how that view would seem if the water was somehow magically taken away?  Well, thanks to recent results from a Bangor University project called SEACAMS, part financed through the Welsh European Funding Office, this has become a reality for some iconic coastal locations across Wales.

Scientists based at Bangor University’s School of Ocean Sciences are undertaking a range of research projects that contribute to improving our understanding of the marine and coastal environment for many different reasons including impacts from climate change, developing sustainable fisheries and helping to develop marine renewable energy generation projects.  In order to do this effectively, basic but quite detailed information is required on what the seabed looks like, what it is made of and how it changes over different timescales due to the movement of water above it. 

Detailed mapping of the seafloor is achieved by using an expensive and sophisticated piece of equipment called a multibeam sonar that operates on the principle of an echo sounder and works by sending out pulses of sound that hit the seabed and bounce back. Depth is calculated using the time it takes for the signal to return. 

A team of scientists and technicians involved in the SEACAMS project have been using this technology to map large areas of the seabed around Anglesey, the Llŷn Peninsula and areas off the coast of South Wales using a fleet of research vessels, including the 35m Prince Madog which is based at Menai Bridge.  Now for the first time these results are being superimposed on images from Google Earth to provide context and illustrate many interesting features such as mobile sandbanks, rocky outcrops, seabed scour and shipwrecks.

Shipwrecks are interesting because as well as being of obvious historical interest, marine scientists can learn a great deal about the response of the sea and seabed to the presence of these structures in terms of water and sediment movement and the role they play in creating new habitats for various plants and animals, this knowledge can then also provide valuable information to marine energy project developers and their engineers. 

Publication date: 28 April 2016