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World’s first ocean lander research lab opens for discovery day
The Principal of the University of Aberdeen, Professor C Duncan Rice, will today (Friday, September 28) preview the University of Aberdeen’s new state-of-the-art centre for sub-sea research, the first of its kind in the world.
The preview of the new £1.2million Oceanlab facility situated at the University’s Culterty Field Station, Newburgh, opposite the Ythan Estuary, will take place at 12 noon. Monty Priede, Professor of Oceanography in the Department of Zoology will give a presentation on the Oceanlab and their fascinating work to invited guests and colleagues. This will include deep-sea material filmed on an expedition that some of the Oceanlab staff participated in two years ago and which was featured in the BBC’s latest natural history series, Blue Planet.
This event will offer a rare chance to see how the groundbreaking research of scientists at the University’s Department of Zoology is revealing a whole new environment in some of the previously hidden depths of the world’s oceans.
The North East community of Newburgh has also been invited to preview the centre on Saturday, September 29, any time between 1.00 and 6.00pm. The North East public will get a rare chance to see life on the ocean floor and will also be able to view videos and films, displays and exhibits, posters, an instrumentation workshop, and deep sea fish samples.
Professor Priede said: “This new facility will enable engineers and
scientists to work together, creating totally novel robot vehicles which
will carry cameras, sonars and laser holography systems, allowing us to
observe animals living as deep as 6,000 metres (3.5miles). It creates for
the University of Aberdeen a world-class
capability in exploring the world’s oceans.”
The Oceanlab is the first purpose-built ocean lander laboratory in the world. Located close to the centre of the North Sea oil industry, the Oceanlab has direct access to the most sophisticated sub-sea industry suppliers in Europe. It will attract visiting scientists and engineers from all over the world to develop and test experiments to be deployed in international research progammes.
The facility will allow engineers and marine scientists to work together to build and test lander equipment using immersion and sea-water investigation tanks, environmental and vibration test rigs, and image analysis suite. The Oceanlab has a large tank with 250mm thick steel walls. The water is chilled to just above freezing and pressurised to replicate the cold, dark and high pressure conditions at depths of 6,000m below sea level
The Principal of the University of Aberdeen, Professor C Duncan Rice said the creation of the new Oceanlab facility was a great achievement for the marine scientists and technologists based at the University of Aberdeen. This highlights the scientific strengths that Aberdeen, as a leading institution, has in these areas.
Press are invited to come along to this discovery day. A photograph opportunity has been organised and interviews can be arranged with the Principal of the University of Aberdeen, Professor C Duncan Rice and Professor Monty Priede at the University of Aberdeen’s Oceanlab facility, Culterty Field Station, Newburgh, Aberdeenshire, at 12 noon on Friday, September 28, 2001. The Principal will give an opening speech, and following this he will stand next to the test tank and can be photographed releasing a lander.
Notes to Editors
The new centre has been built as part of the University of Aberdeen’s successful £4.2 million bid for sub-sea research. Aberdeen submitted its application in March 1999 for the funding of a programme known as Autonomous Marine Environmental Research Stations (AutoMERS) in a joint proposal with the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS) Dunstaffnage Marine Laboratory and the Universities of Bristol and St Andrews from the Joint Infrastructure Fund (JIF). This was a one-off collaborative initiative between the Government and the Wellcome Trust announced in 1998 to improve the science infrastructure in the British higher education and research institutions.
The new Oceanlab building will have a large assembly area within which complete lander systems can be integrated and tested. There will be a 125m3 immersion tank, which will double as an acoustic and camera test tank. A pressure vessel will allow testing of components and sub-assemblies to 600 bar. A sea-water observation tank will be set up for evaluation of systems in a controlled environment. Environmental and vibration test rigs will also be accommodated. A suite with a dark room and image analysis suite will be established for camera testing and data archive management. Offices will be provided for key personnel, visiting scientists and engineers.
The Oceanlab is a joint facility for the Faculty of Science and Engineering, intended for combined teams of scientists and engineers to develop projects for the marine environment. It is situated at Culterty, the home of the existing University of Aberdeen field station on the shores of the Ythan estuary. A new slipway has been provided so that we can test landers on the mud of the estuary, which is remarkably similar to deep-sea bottom ooze. The Oceanlab has been built by Barratt Construction of Ellon to a remarkable innovative design by Aberdeen architects, George, Watt & Stewart. The exterior is clad with Western Red Cedar and features a turf roof (the latest German green technology) planted with sedum, or stonecrop, which has been flowering yellow and white in the late stages of construction. This provides a durable finish that will be biologically renewed each season and is guaranteed for 50 years. The entrance area and stairs have decks and handrails like a ship reflecting the maritime function. This is truly a building that Aberdeen can be proud of.
The Oceanlab is part of a larger programme known as AutoMERS (Autonomous Marine Environment Research Stations), the aim of which is to develop a UK fleet of lander vehicles for deep-sea research. A major partner is the Scottish Association for Marine Science (Dunstaffnage Marine Laboratory) near Oban, who acquire a new lander storage building and modifications to the pier at Dunstaffnage Castle, allowing us to transport landers directly to the ship and deep water test sites off the Scottish West Coast. Other University partners are St Andrews, Bristol and York. AutoMERS is financed by the Joint Infrastructure Fund (JIF), which was set up to develop new facilities for the UK science research community. In addition to the building work, JIF is supporting the appointment of specialist personnel and six new lander vehicles. One of the new landers that will be built at Oceanlab is the DOBO, the deep ocean benthic observatory, which will provide a long term presence on the floor of the abyssal North-east Atlantic Ocean to look for seasonal changes in the deep sea. A second new vehicle will be the Langrangian Drifter, which will float in mid water at any depth from sub-surface to 4,000m following the deep ocean currents, making observations as it goes with zero disturbance to the surrounding water.
Monty Priede has written a feature in the September issue of the University’s Newsletter The stuff of science fiction. He explains how he and his team have taken ocean research to new depths with the latest autonomous lander vehicles and the new state-of-the-art Oceanlab at Newburgh. To view his online feature, please visit the following site: http://www.abdn.ac.uk/newsletter/review.hti#review1
Blue Planet, BBC 1, 9.00pm last week featured deep-sea material filmed on an expedition that some of the Oceanlab staff participated in two years ago.
Angela Begg, Media Relations Officer, University of Aberdeen, Tel. (01224) 272960.
University Press Office on telephone +44 (0)1224-273778 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.