Funded by European dosh , the Maritime And Coastguard Agency (National) (MCA) have undertaken a seabed survey off the northern coast of Ireland, parts of which have not been surveyed since Victorian times.
Starting last November using modern multi-beam echo sounding technology they have so far surveyed a 3 nautical mile coastal strip westward from Country Antrim, around Rathlin Island to Inishtrahull Island off Donegal. The data gained will be used to provide more accurate navigational charts and to study the topography of the sea floor.
The Joint Irish Bathymetric Survey (JIBS) Project is being led by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency in partnership with the Marine Institute of Ireland. This E2.1m joint venture is being entirely funded by the EU from their INTERREG Programme, which is co-ordinated by the Department of the Environment for Northern Ireland. INTERREG IIIA Programmes address the economic and social disadvantages which can result from the existence of a border.
Rob Spillard, Hydrographic Manager MCA says data has shown that there are some remarkable features on the seabed which were previously not known about - including caves and what may have been a lagoon.
"The data also shows a wreck, which is thought to be that of the SS Diamond, a steam coaster which sank after a collision with the SS Lily near Rathlin Island in 1918. Details of this are listed here on the Irish Wrecks of Rathlin Island site (and there are many > 40) .. and locate it at 1 mile WNW of Altacarry Lighthouse at 35m , in the main run of the tide but it hasn't yet been dived on. It sunk on 13th April 1918.
From the data received, they have developed a superb 3D 'fly through movie' which enables viewers to 'fly' across the seabed and see all the features. They have released this today for public consumption.
Readers are strongly advised to watch the movie which can be downloaded as a .wmv file in in 20 seconds here - but hang on to your seats as you fly by the underwater cliffs - stunning use of nearly 3D graphics.
The complete multibeam bathymetry and backscatter survey data will also be made available on the web later this year for anyone to use. The results (they say) will contribute towards increased safety for commercial and recreational sailors and fishermen and an enhanced knowledge of the biological, geological and archaeological features of this underwater area.
Rathlin Island is recently famous as the site of Richard Branson's crash landing after his Transatlantic Balloon trip in 1987. Earlier Guglielmo Marconi installed a wireless transmitter for Lloyd's of London at Altacarry Head and in July 1898 transmitted the first commercial radio signals, sending advance warning across to Ballycastle of the successful return of transatlantic Lloyds-insured ships returning to Liverpool around the northern coast of Ireland.
The island also has the The Hill of Screaming, which took its name from when the women and children of the MacDonnells retreated there in 1642 and were allowed to watch all of their menfolk butchered by the Clan of Campbell.
Mr Francis Drake (not yet "Sir Francis" and not yet having set off on his famous Circumnavigation of the World (1577-1580)) commanded the ships that brought Sir John ("Black Jack") Norris's English troops and cannon onto Rathlin Island in 1575, where Ole' Black Jack destroyed the Bruce Castle and massacred the entire population. All of them, by the reports of the time. The remains of Bruce's castle exist where history has it that he watched the spider.
Here is a picture of Altcarry Head with the East Lighthouse today/ compare and contrast with the underwater cliff scene above.