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SORBEH: marine research expedition to Rockall Bank

Publication Date: 14 July, 2014


SORBEH is a research collaboration between UCD Earth Institute members Dr Aggeliki Georgiopoulou and her team (UCD School of Geological Sciences), Dr Ken Gavin and his team (UCD School of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering) and the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton (UK) (Dr Veerle Huvenne and her team). The project aims to explore the geology and habitats of a series of deep sea escarpments offshore Ireland on the eastern slope of the Rockall Bank in the North Atlantic. The area is the Rockall Bank Slide Complex (RBSC), where a series of scarps caused by a number of submarine slides have been identified on seafloor maps. Submarine slides like these can be very destructive for marine infrastructure (e.g. telecommunication cables, etc) but are also able to generate tsunamis.

On Tuesday 15th July, the Irish Research Vessel Celtic Explorer will set sail from Galway to the Rockall Bank on a two-week research expedition in order to retrieve sedimentary cores from the seabed using a brand new gravity corer, map the escarpment walls with multibeam bathymetry and get video footage from these environments using the ROV Holland I. This project will aim to determine the lithologies and the mechanical behaviour of the slope sediments that are currently - and maybe temporarily - stable but which can be considered equivalent to the sediments that mobilized during the events that led to the RBSC. Also obtaining a better understanding of the deep-water cliff communities is important, as they may act as refuges for benthic species or may provide shelter for commercial fish. So far their inaccessible terrain has protected them from trawling impacts, but other lost fishing gear (nets, longlines) is often encountered. Hence it is important to include them in marine spatial management plans to protect them from potential future anthropogenic impacts.

This project will continue and expand on research that began in 2010 and 2011 led by Dr Georgiopoulou, and will contribute to the ERC-funded CODEMAP project led by Dr Huvenne.

Cruise participants will be writing daily reports which you can follow on the Marine Institute blog