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Shipwrecks off Scottish Coast Surveyed by Autonomous Underwater Vehicle

Ross Kelly

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Scottish Coast Shipwrecks

Two shipwrecks off the west coast of Scotland have been surveyed by an autonomous underwater vehicle (SAMS) as part of an EU-funded operation.

An autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) has been used to collect data on shipwrecks off the coast of Oban. The data gathered by the Gavia AUV, named Freya, has helped produce images of two historic wrecks.

Off the coast of Oban lies the Thalia, a converted steam yacht, which sank in 1942 following a collision. Lying more than 170ft underwater on the murky sea floor, data compiled by Freya will help provide researchers with detailed images of the Thalia.

Another wreck observed by the AUV includes a cargo ship, the SS Madame Alice. In 1918, the vessel collided with a naval vessel, the HMY Iolaire. The ship is located 141m below the surface.

The operation is part of the Scottish Association for Marine Science’s (SAMS) EU-funded MarPAMM project.

The MarPAMM project aims to develop new ways to monitor and control marine protected areas in parts of Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

The submersible was operated by Dr John Howe and a team of experts from the organisation. While the survey of the wrecks took less than an hour, the area in which they lie is particularly dangerous. Both spots are at a significant depth and muddy conditions mean that divers cannot reach them.

Speaking on the operation, Dr Howe said: “AUVs enable us to map the seabed at a high resolution, without the use of a ship.

“The AUV can ‘fly’ close to the seabed and at a constant depth to get high-resolution images. Technology similar to this was involved in the search for the missing Malaysian Airlines, MH370.”

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Ross Kelly

Staff Writer

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