Students from two Donegal secondary schools Coláiste Phobail Cholmcille, Tory Island and Scoil Mhuire, Buncrana are supporting one of the boldest deep-ocean research projects ever to be undertaken in Europe.

The SEA-SEIS project, led by Dr. Sergei Lebedev from the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies (DIAS) was launched this week from Cobh, County Cork.

The project team will explore the farthest depths of the Atlantic Ocean, using 18 state-of-the-art ocean bottom seismometers to measure movement at the ocean floor, hundreds of kilometres off the coast of Ireland.

In the leadup to the launch, secondary schools from across the country were invited to put forward names for the each of the seismometers, which had, up until then, just been numbered 1-18.

Each seismometer is now named and will be labelled before they reach the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, where they will remain in place for the next two years. The network will cover the entire Irish offshore area, with several sensors also being placed in UK and Icelandic waters.

The winning entries hailing from County Donegal were:

  • Allód, an ancient name for the Irish god of the sea, proposed by Coláiste Phobail Cholmcille, Tory Island, Co. Donegal; and
  • Loch Ness Mometer which was proposed by second-year student, Marie Barr, from Scoil Mhuire, Buncrana, Co. Donegal.

    Through ongoing social media output and ship-to-classroom video links, schools will be able to follow the progress of the RV Celtic Explorer and the deployment of the seismometers, over the next three weeks.

    Speaking at this week’s launch, Professor Chris Bean, Senior Professor of Geophysics and Director of the DIAS School of Cosmic Physics, said: “The geological evolution of Ireland’s offshore territory is fascinating, but there is still so much of it to be explored.

    "I would like to sincerely thank the students at Coláiste Phobail Cholmcille and Scoil Mhuire for helping our researchers in this scientific mission to explore the farthest depths of the Atlantic Ocean.

    “As originally discovered by DIAS and collaborators in the late 1980’s, and subsequently confirmed by the Marine Institute/Geological Survey Ireland, Ireland has an ocean territory 10 times larger than its terrestrial landmass.

    “There are geological, oceanographic, and biological processes that interact on a daily basis in this vast territory but, until now, have been poorly understood due to a lack of observational equipment.

    "For the first time, through the SEA-SEIS project we will be able to make long-term direct observations of the interactions between our oceans and solid Earth in this region.”

    Speaking about the research project, lead researcher, Dr. Sergei Lebedev, DIAS, commented: “Ireland is uniquely suited to this type of deep-sea science, as 90 per cent of the Irish territory is offshore, most of it to the west of Ireland.

    “Our scientists are most grateful to the students at Coláiste Phobail Cholmcille and Scoil Mhuire and all the schools who entered the competition, for supporting us with our research project.

    “Allód and Loch Ness Mometer will record the tiny vibrations of the Earth caused by seismic waves, generated by earthquakes and by the ocean waves. As the waves propagate through the Earth’s interior on their way to the seismic stations, they accumulate information on the structure of the Earth that they encounter.

    “Using this data, the scientists at DIAS can do a 3D scan of the matter beneath the Earth’s surface. We will discover how the structure of the tectonic plates varies and what happens beneath these plates.”

    The equipment is being deployed on a mission on the RV Celtic Explorer over the next three weeks, with the ship returning to dock in Galway on October 7.

    This project is made possible using the network of ocean-bottom seismometers which will be provided by iMARL, the “Insitu Marine Laboratory for Geosystems Research” and which are hosted by DIAS.

    The SEA-SEIS project is co-funded by Science Foundation Ireland, Geological Survey of Ireland, and Marine Institute.

    Further information about SEA-SEIS is available at: https://sea-seis.ie/

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