Irish scientists successfully map Atlantic seabed

11 Jun 2015

A team of scientists aboard the MV Celtic Explorer has mapped the seabed along the route taken to lay the first transatlantic cable back in 1857, finding mountains taller than Carrauntoohil beneath the depths.

Other discoveries at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean included endless ridges, footprints of icebergs moving across the seabed and an ancient glacial moraine, with the researchers – led by the Marine Institute of Ireland – “knowing now why that first cable didn’t last”.

In total, the team – which was made up of various nationalities – uncovered 235km2 of iceberg scarred seabed, ancient glacial moraine features and buried sediment channels on the Newfoundland and Labrador shelf.

The Atlantic Ocean's newly-mapped seabed

3D animation of a 3.7km high underwater mountain, more than 140km long under the Atlantic Ocean – via Marine Institute

They also charted a 15km long down-slope channel feature on the western Atlantic continental slope, which the Marine Institute surmise was most likely formed by meltwater run-off “associated with ice-cap grounding during the last glaciation”, which was 20,000 years ago.

An area of cold water coral and sponges was also imaged, as well as the OSPAR-designated Marine Protected Area.

They crossed the dramatic Charlie-Gibbs Fracture Zone on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge creating a 3D visualisation of a 3.7km high underwater mountain.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Peter Heffernan, CEO of the Marine Institute, explained the importance of mapping our oceans.

Waves image, via Shutterstock


Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic