Glasgow & West Scotland

Robot surveys rarely visited shipwrecks off Oban

Image of wreck Image copyright SAMS
Image caption An image of the 1942 wreck of the Thalia

Images of rarely-dived shipwrecks in the sea off Oban have been created using data gathered by a robot.

Two wreck sites were surveyed by the Gavia autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV), nicknamed Freya.

The Thalia, a converted steam yacht, sank following a collision in 1942 and lies 53m (173ft) underwater on the muddy seabed.

The other wreck is of the SS Madame Alice which was lost after colliding with the naval yacht Iolaire in 1918.

The cargo ship rests 43m (141ft) down.

The following year, the HMY Iolaire sank on New Year's Day 1919 off Stornoway in Lewis after it hit a reef in bad weather.

More than 200 men returning home after the end of World War One, many of them from Lewis and Harris, died when the yacht sank.

Image copyright SAMS
Image caption The wreck of the SS Madame Alice

Freya was operated by Dr John Howe and his team at Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS) as part of the EU-funded MarPAMM project.

The project is looking at new ways to monitor and manage Marine Protected Areas in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Ireland.

The wrecks survey was carried out in less than an hour.

Dr Howe said: "AUVs enable us to map the seabed at a high resolution, without the use of a ship.

"The AUV can 'fly' close to seabed and at a constant depth to get high-resolution images. Technology similar to this was involved search for the missing Malaysian Airlines MH370."

The two wrecks surveyed by the Gavia are known about but are rarely dived because of their depth and the muddy conditions in which they have settled.

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