New sonar will help Plymouth students unravel mysteries of the deep
The mysteries of the deep are to be unlocked at Plymouth University thanks to a new state-of-the-art sonar system.
The equipment will enable students to map the underwater world and visualise in detail features such as shipwrecks.
Professor Simon Handley, Dean of the Faculty of Science and Environment, said it had already been tested in the waters off Devon and Cornwall, where wrecks such as HMS Scylla and the SS James Eagan Layne had been examined.
“Very few universities in the country can boast such a cutting-edge system, one which opens a window into the sub-sea world,” he said.
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“It’s further evidence of Plymouth’s commitment to the student experience and its world-leading marine and maritime pedigree.”
The Multi-Beam Echo Sounder (MBES) will be used on board the university’s teaching and research vessels.
Any student in the University’s Marine Institute who is studying hydrography will have access to the kit,
The MBES sends a beam of sound into the water and can receive multiple beams back from the seabed or a feature below the sea surface up to a depth of 400 metres.
Using specialist software, it can accurately measure latitude, longitude, and the height of the feature.
It will enable university researchers to conduct seabed mapping, and will be used in fieldwork trips.
The sonar will also be used by professional students who have enrolled on its Hydrographic Academy – an innovative partnership with multi-national giant Fugro that provides higher education and postgraduate programmes for those in the off-shore sector.
Launched last year, there are more than 100 students from all over the world studying through the Hydrographic Academy.
Jon Holmes, from the facility said it would be a real boon.
“Using the MBES of this quality is a bit like taking a photo, but better.
“It provides intelligent data, such as how deep the water is, or how tall a shipwreck might be.
“It offers students an invaluable insight into different hydrographic scenarios, from updating charts, to investigating obstructions on the seabed, mapping marine habitats and carrying out surveys for oil and gas.”
The sonar and supporting system and software will also be made available to commercial companies as part of the university’s engagement with the South West Marine Energy Park.