A chasm almost as deep as the Grand Canyon, mountains higher than Ben Nevis and rivers carving their way through the Atlantic sea bed have been revealed for the first time by one of the Royal Navy’s specialist scientific ships.
HMS Scott has shed light on the wonders of the deep as she surveyed the mid-Atlantic – her first mission in nearly two years.
The Devonport-based research ship has been out of action since the autumn of 2013, undergoing the most extensive revamp in her 17-year career.
Since putting back to sea in April she’s undergone extensive training before striking out into the open sea to begin gathering information about the depths of the ocean.
Scott – which is the largest of the five vessels in the Royal Navy’s hydrographic squadron – typically spends the summer in the Atlantic before shifting to waters east of Suez in the winter as her suite of sonars scan the deep ocean in high resolution.
Those sensors can survey 150 square kilometres of sea bed every hour – the size of Bristol.
Scanning the floor of the Atlantic between the Azores and the Eastern Seaboard of the United States, the hydrographic team on board found a canyon one kilometre deep, a volcano towering 800 metres, an underwater river and a peak rising 2,000 metres from the sea bed.
It took Scott 36 hours to gather the readings from the canyon area alone – then another 36 hours for Scott’s suite of powerful computers to turn those reams of data into stunning 3D imagery.
“It’s always exciting to see something that no one else has ever seen before, especially for many of the newly-qualified sailors onboard who are conducting their first survey,” said Lt Paul ‘Shady’ Lane, the ship’s operations officer.
“It’s exhilarating to know that with all the satellites, GPS and modern technology there is still so much undiscovered.”
Scott is expected to conduct surveys for up to 300 days a year, normally spending a month at a time ploughing up and down the oceans.