Ireland could lead Europe in deep sea science, says US expert – Fishupdate.com

Ireland could lead Europe in deep sea science, says US expert Published:  31 January, 2008

John Delaney

IRELAND, with its rapidly expanding capacity for cutting-edge marine science, is poised to be a European leader, a US expert has said.

New ways of exploring the deep oceans that can shed light on rapid climate change, investigate the consequences of erupting underwater volcanoes and provide new technologies that may help humankind explore distant planets, are just some of the benefits of launching a new era of web-enabled human interaction with the oceans, according to US underwater explorer and visionary Prof. John Delaney who was speaking at the Royal Irish Academy in Dublin last night.

According to Professor Delaney’s lecture – Ocean Sciences: At the Cutting Edge of an Environmental Renaissance – marine science is about to take a quantum leap in its ability to gather information about the ocean as profound as the first explorations by the ancient Phoenicians or the development and utilisation of satellite technology – by placing entire networks of robot underwater data gathering systems in the deep ocean.

“The development of undersea observatories, linked by fibre optic cables that can provide both electrical power and the ability to gather and transmit information from the deep seas worldwide over the Internet opens up a window on the oceans that we can share with the whole world,” said Professor Delaney. “A host of new technologies involving autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs), remote genetic analysis and the instantaneous transmission of large amounts of data will also allow us to deploy robot data gathering devices to any point in the ocean where there are phenomena we wish to observe – be it an underwater earthquake, a deep ocean fishery, or a migrating pod of whales.”

Professor Delaney is in Ireland not only to give a series of guest lectures at the Royal Irish Academy, Dublin, in Galway and at the Marine Institute, but also to advise the Marine Institute on its own cabled underwater observatory project SMARTBAY, which will be installed over the next three years in Galway Bay. This in turn will lead to CELTNET, a more ambitious project by the Marine Institute and its European partners, to install cabled underwater observatories in the deep ocean off the west coast of Ireland, as part of an even bigger system spanning Europe from the Arctic, through the Mediterranean to the Black Sea.

The importance of underwater observatories, as early warning systems for environmental and geological incidents as well as unique providers of information on the ocean, has been emphasised by the European Commission in its recent Maritime Policy papers and in Ireland’s own response to the EU Consultation process on this policy.

“Just as we on the west coast of America are affected by the oceanic and weather systems from the Pacific, so Ireland is affected by those of the Atlantic,” said Professor Delaney. “We are both on the western edge of large continental landmasses buffeted by vast and unexplored oceans.”

From his own experience in the field, Prof. Delaney is convinced that Ireland, with its rapidly expanding capacity for cutting-edge marine science, is poised to be a European leader in the deployment of underwater cabled observation systems. “There is no question that Ireland is leading in this area,” said Prof. Delaney. “As a nation, Ireland has recognised that it is a small island in a very large ocean and is wisely using this situation to its advantage.”

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