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Wonder sub heads for Welsh waters; Craft will help scientists study Irish Sea turbulence.


MARINE scientists in North Wales have landed a pounds 400,000 cash award to enlist the services of the ``cruise missile'' of submarines.

But experts at the University of Wales,Bangor's school of ocean sciences will have to wait another two years before they get their hands on the wonder sub.

Known as Autosub, it will be launched from Prince Madog, the university's research vessel.

And the team,carrying out a study of the Irish Sea,only have use of the craft for a couple of weeks.

The unmanned sub, developed by Southampton Oceanography Centre with financial backing from the Research Council, is in such demand Bangor has had to join a waiting list.

At the moment it is scouring the iced waters of Antarctica.

When it arrives in North Wales it will be used in a major, operation to check turbulence levels and structures in the Irish Sea.

``It will be ideal,'' said Bangor's Professor John Simpson.

``It really is a highly sophisticated autonomous machine. We will be launching it on missions for up to two days at a time and it will roam about underwater gathering the data we need.

``Basically it can be left to its own devices and will automatically rendezvous with the ship at a given time and location.

``Electrically powered,it will only have to be brought aboard once,just for its batteries to be recharged. It will be armed with highly sensitive probes to measure sea water velocity, temperature and salinity.''

Professor Simpson added: ``We are really thrilled it is coming,even though we have to wait until 2005.''

Bangor colleagues Chris Richardson and James Scourse have secured a pounds 300,000 Natural Environment Research Council to carry on their ground breaking work. They are studying a North Sea shellfish - Arctic a islandica -which can help scientists count back in time.

With other researchers they have found some which have lived for over 250 years.

The Bangor scientists are working alongside the Climate Research Unit, the Natural Environment Research Council's Radiocarbon Laboratory,in Glasgow,and experts at University of East Anglia.

A spokesperson said: ``With colleague Graham Forsythe, they have discovered that some of these animals lived for over 250 years. By matching the patterns from different shells, very long records can be constructed.

``The grant will enable a continuous 1,000year record to be constructed for the North Sea which will be critical in helping to understand past patterns of sea water temperature and for placing in historical context recent increases in temperatures linked to global warming.''


The Autosub can be launched from a small vessel and then left to its own devices
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Aug 2, 2003
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