Celtic Voyager, 5 days in the life…

The Celtic Voyager, a reseearch vessel, at dock

A day in the life on the Celtic Voyager is not something you can describe. Changing weather requires highly adaptable plans. This is something that has been considered carefully by Dr. Kieran Craven of Maynooth University, chief scientist of the MARA 2 Project, currently underway on the Malin Shelf. The MARA 2 project uses existing sub-bottom seismic and high-resolution multibeam bathymetry data from the INFOMAR project to target areas of scientific interest to acquire new seismic, sediment grab samples and video of the seabed. The boat is out from Sunday 6th May to Tuesday 15th May, a total of ten days. There are three broad aims to this work: to collect sediment samples from the seabed, to film the seabed using the British Geological Survey BTV100 camera and to train students on all aspects throughout.

It looks as though the weather is going to change on us. As I write this, we have just had a lovely bank holiday Monday with beautiful changing skyscapes and plenty of sunshine. The swell today has been 2.5m, relatively calm, yet it had most of the scientists feeling very queasy this morning and continues to carry us like a mellow rollercoaster. This is due to worsen tomorrow, and the outlook for the week is not great. We are furiously trying to collect as much data as possible in this window of time. Each time we collect a sample we are helping to fill in more of the story of our glacial past. Why, you might ask? Well, the more we know about previous glacial landscapes the better we can understand the processes taking place today in our cryosphere.

Wind and swell maps of Ireland and Atlantic

The left image shows the winds while right image shows the swell heading towards Ireland. Images captured from windy.com on Tuesday 8th May at approximately 9pm.

On Tuesday morning we continued to collect data out on the Malin shelf, and it was hectic work as many of the stations were near one another. By lunchtime we moved back towards land to avoid the weather front moving in, where we continued to collect samples. As we began our journey back one of the crew came up to the dry lab and told us there were some dolphins on the way over. Eight common dolphins swam over to the boat to play in the surf created at the front of the Celtic Voyager. They stayed for about 3-5minutes. It was wonderful to see them.

The trip was impacted by the weather on Wednesday also, so we remained in the shelter of Lough Swilly using the camera (BTV100, or Kevin as we liked to call it) to film transects along the sea bed. The BTV100 has a video camera in its nose and a stills camera on its belly. This enables the operator, Heather Stewart to see what is coming to avoid Kevin crashing into obstacles, otherwise it automatically takes a picture every 3-seconds. We ran three transects in total. Finding our feet on runs one and two, we felt confident to film and simultaneously grab samples for transect three. This work allows us to marry together what we are seeing on the video with analysis of the sediment from the grab. At the same time, we are perfecting the procedures involved in the sampling and filming processes.


The BTV100 camera, ready to be launched into the sea (left) and being launched (right).


Heather Stewart of the British Geological Survey, Kieran Craven chief scientist and Sean O Kane, Maynooth University student, look on as the BTV100 takes its first transect along the sea bed.

Thursday and Friday were inhibited by the weather, with the boat remaining docked at Rathmullan Harbour on Thursday and anchored at the mouth of Lough Swilly for the first half of Friday. This gave the science crew the opportunity to sort the data, produces maps and begin interpretation of the footage and samples. However, as I write this, the weather is clearing and boat is now moving north out of the confines of the lough. Hopefully the weather will clear for the weekend and we can be back out on the shelf.


Above: Celtic Voyager crew launch the shipek to ‘grab’ samples from the sea floor. Below: Students Sean O Kane (Maynooth University) and Jenni Moran (University College Cork) log and bag samples, while Heather Stewart monitors the progress of the BTV100.


Science crew on MARA 2: Dr. Kieran Craven, chief scientist; Heather Stewart, British Geological Survey; Kirstin Johnson, PhD student with British Geological Survey; Jenni Moran masters student in University College Cork; Sean O Kane and Rhonda McGovern masters students in Maynooth University

 Rhonda McGovern, MSc Climate Change, Maynooth University.


  1. Great work Rhonda. I’m also delighted to see from the Marine Institute’s ‘Track a Vessel’ page that you got out onto the Malin Sea to survey far offshore. Continued happy and safe sailing to all onboard! S.


  2. Ian Gillespie · · Reply

    Looks like a fantastic trip, to be envied. But ripple on a mill pond would have me sick as a dog


  3. S Perry · · Reply

    A really interesting read


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