Historic wrecks assist Wales's marine renewable energy research

Reporter:

Dale Spridgeon

UNDERWATER wrecks around Wales’ coastline are to play a part in assisting Wales’s marine renewable energy sector.

Sunken vessels such as the German submarine, which went down 10 miles off Bardsey Island, on Christmas Day ,in 1917, losing all 43 hands on board, will play a part in new research.

Researchers aim intend to include surveys of shipwrecks around the Welsh coast as models for what might happen to any structures placed in the same or similar areas of the seabed.

Over the next two years, marine scientists from Bangor University will lead surveys around the coast of Wales, as part of the ERDF-funded SEACAMS2 project, in partnership with Swansea University.

The researchers at Bangor University’s School of Ocean Sciences and Centre for Applied Marine Sciences research, included marine surveys, to support the sustainable growth of the marine renewable energy sector.

The MRE sector is developing technologies to capitalise on Wales’ wave and tidal energy resources.

Sonar images of wrecks, taken from the University’s research vessel Prince Madog, will reveal how the tides and currents have removed or deposited sediments.

The oceanographers can learn how the presence of structures on the seabed changes how sediments are carried in the water or deposited and over what timescale.

One of the lead researchers on the project, Dr Michael Roberts explained: “It is hoped that the data will improve our understanding of marine processes across a range of sites throughout Welsh waters and provide developers with answers to some basic but very important questions.” 

This research will also set to benefit the heritage and tourism sectors in Wales by enhancing understanding of maritime history associated with conflicts of the 20th century. 

The surveys are already providing images of previously unexplored seabeds including the area of the U-87 wreck. The German submarine was rammed by a British naval vessel shortly after it had sunk a cargo vessel nearby. 

Th eresearch will contribute to work on the potential HLF funded project ‘Commemorating the forgotten U-boat war around the Welsh coast 1914-18: Exploration, Access and Outreach’ led by RCAHMW.

Deanna Groom, the Royal Commission’s senior investigator (Maritime) said:“We’re really thankful for the surveys which Bangor University are undertaking. They are allowing us - for the first time in perhaps 100 years- to actually see the relicts of the Great War as fought at sea just off our own coast. 

“These are the underwater, out-of-sight memorials, rarely visited, poignant, thought-provoking, resonate reminders of the cost in lives of the life during the wartime. 

“Encounters between merchant ships and enemy submarines, such as U-87, are by far the greatest cause of the 170 losses in Welsh waters –that is, in comparison to losses caused by ships setting off contact mines.

“Each site has a moving story of its own which we are hoping to explore and retell, with the help of the museums and archives of Wales, as part of our partnership project.”

Email:

dale.spridgeon@nwn.co.uk

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