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Last Updated: Monday, 15 October 2007, 13:02 GMT 14:02 UK
Survey reveals secrets of the deep
Rathlin Island
The seabed beyond Rathlin Island will be mapped
The secrets of the deep, from Rathlin Island to Tory Island off the Donegal coast, are about to be revealed.

Scientists are preparing to map the seabed stretching along the north coast. Their work begins in November.

The project is being carried out by the Marine Institute of Ireland and the UK's Maritime and Coastguard Agency.

The resulting maps will cover a band of the seabed that is three nautical sea miles wide.

The Joint Irish Bathmetric Survey Project is part of a larger mapping project around the coast of the Republic of Ireland.

In July, the results of research carried out by Irish and British scientists on board the Celtic Explorer, off the coast of Cork, revealed extensive coral reefs.

The seabed off Rathlin Island is a treasure trove for marine scientists
The seabed off Rathlin Island is a treasure trove for marine scientists

The first mapping of the inshore waters of the seabed off County Kerry since the mid-1800s offered the possibility of six likely shipwreck sites.

It also uncovered large sand waves probably deposited during the last Ice Age, according to the Marine Institute.

Dr Peter Heffernan, chief executive of the Marine Institute, said this was the largest project of its kind in the world and had revealed that 90% of the Irish Republic is land beneath the waves.

"It stretches hundreds of miles out into the ocean and this mapping project means politicians and other people will be able to visualise this," he said.

The end result could be an underwater atlas of the lands beneath the waves which might link into a mapping project for areas around the European Union.

Dr Heffernan said the survey around the north coast should produce "beautiful hydrographic quality charts" of a band of land near the coast.

According to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, existing charts of most of Northern Ireland's coastline date back to the Victorian era.

They hope the new maps will improve safety for mariners.

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