Upper Loch Linnhe, where The Underwater Centre is situated, is a shallow-silled loch in northern Scotland. One of the larger lochs on the country’s west coast, the loch is approximately 15 kilometres long and ranges in depth from 0 to 150 metres. The mouth of the loch leads out to Loch Linnhe at the Corran Narrows, a bottleneck less than 200 metres wide, where a sill 11 metres deep separates the upper loch from the much larger lower one (Figure 1). This narrow passage contributes to the sea-loch’s relatively strong cross-sill tidal currents, which encourage the mixing of sea and fresh water and make surface ship-based hydrographic surveying difficult.
Collecting high-resolution images of these seafloor resources for use by the Centre’s students has proved particularly difficult, as data collected using surface vessels was often distorted by variability in the loch’s mixing layer. This was especially true in the areas immediately surrounding the Centre, as it is located approximately half a kilometre from the mouth of the River Lochy, the primary freshwater source of Upper Loch Linnhe.
Mapping the seabed of Loch Linnhe using AUVs
In June of 2014, the Centre decided to map the seabed of Upper Loch Linnhe using a low logistic autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) provided by Kongsberg Maritime Aberdeen. Though AUVs are frequently used for surveying in open water, the vehicles have rarely been deployed to survey inland waterways. This was partly due to logistics, but also because shallow waters reduced the navigation capabilities of the vehicles. With the availability of military grade inertial measurement units, when coupled to Doppler velocity loggers and depth sensors, we have the ability to implement close coupled fully integrated inertial navigation solutions while previous subsea ventures would rely heavily on acoustic positioning only. This in turns gives the high levels of accuracy required to provide high-resolution imagery in shallow water surveying.
Recently, however, advances in positioning technology have created systems with high enough accuracy to provide reliable data for shallow-water surveying.
Using an AUV to map the loch seabed offered two important advantages over traditional hydrographic surface vessel operations. Firstly, because the AUV operates below the thermocline in the deep water protected by the sill of the loch, it is not subject to interference from the surface-level mixing of sea and fresh water. Most AUVs are capable of safely operating within several metres of the seafloor, which enables them to collect high-resolution acoustic data regardless of conditions in the water closer to the surface.
Secondly, AUVs that operate in inland waters require significantly less logistical support than surface ships. While AUVs that operate at depths below half a kilometre require significant infrastructure, such as a large support vessel with a dedicated launch and recovery system (LARS), vehicles that deploy in the relatively shallow water found in fjords are typically man-portable and can be launched from any pier or vessel of convenience. Together, these capabilities drove the decision to use a portable AUV to map the bottom of Upper Loch Linnhe.
A variety of equipment was used in the surveying effort. The AUV used was a Kongsberg Hydroid REMUS 100 equipped with a suite of sensors, including a Kongsberg Geoacoustics Geoswath Multibeam Echo sounder, Edgetech side-scan sonar and conductivity-temperature-depth (CTD) sensor. The multibeam echo sounder and side-scan sonar were used in tandem, which meant that a single AUV mission could generate both two- and three-dimensional sonar images simultaneously. Essentially we have a true side-scan mosaic representation of the seafloor but, in addition, the Geoswath allows us to give true xyz datapoints referenced to any particular datum allowing quantifiable measurements to be taken on the seafloor rather than relying on the shadow lengths as conventionally done when using solely side-scan sonar systems. The temperature and salinity information, along with all other sensor data, were available post-mission for analysis, allowing both temporal and spatial control of the collection.
Missions and Results
Two missions were conducted in the area around the Centre’s private pier, in waters ranging from 8 to 68 metres in depth (Figure 2) referenced to lowest astronomical tide (LAT). The AUV was in operation for a total of approximately three and a half hours, with each mission lasting between one and a half and two hours. Both missions were launched directly from a nearby tethered barge by a two-person team of AUV operators. The vehicle flew below the loch’s mixing layer and thermocline, which varies in depth due to the fast changing bottom depth but lies at approximately 8 to 16 metres. Therefore, its onboard sonar instruments were subject to significantly less noise and were able to gather data using much shorter pulse lengths than would have been possible from a surface ship. This enabled the AUV to generate extremely high-resolution sonar images of the wrecked craft on the seabed around the Centre (Figure 3). These two wrecked craft are located just off the Centre’s main pier, in water approximately 45 metres deep. They can also be seen in Figure 2, slightly to the West of the pier’s end.
Loch Linnhe Chart AUV Mapping Kongsberg Seabed Mapping The Underwater Centre
This is an excerpt from ‘Mapping the Floor of Upper Loch Linnhe Using AUVs’ by Richard ‘Bungy Williams, Hydroid UK and Craig Wallace, Kongsberg Maritime, UK. Click here for the full article.
Our subsea site is used for both commercial diver and ROV pilot technician training, as well as being available for subsea testing and trials. For more information on the site features visit our website here.
Alternatively, contact us on +44 1397 703786 or email@example.com
In last week’s blog post, commercial diver Mikey McManus shared his thoughts on how best to get started in a diving career. In this post he talks about the skills he gained from his military background and the training received at The Underwater Centre, and how they contributed to his commercial diving career.
Tell us about your working life before training as a commercial diver
“I have had a varied and colourful working life, so my life experience is quite handy, however I have the luxury of being ex-military who went on to become a teacher. I spent 12 years in the Army spanning the Royal Artillery to the Parachute Regiment; when I retired I got my degree and became a teacher. Since moving to the West Coast of Scotland, neither of these skills were paying out, so a career change was needed to make where I lived more accessible to employment for me.”
“Having a military background makes the dive industry easier for me, as the format is the same; small teams operating on one job, with everyone bringing their abilities and characters to the forefront of the job, having to get on and be able operate effectively on your own but part of the wider team, making sure everyone is on the same page. There are many transferrable skills in this industry and every new colleague you work with will have a varied background, but that’s where networking comes in again as it is these veterans of the industry who will mould you in to the diver you become. I may be 40, but I’m learning from guys half my age and I take the stick that comes with it (as well as the nick names and the daily, friendly abuse) but I was prepared for that and happy with this, as I know the lads I work with get something from having me there too, and that is what makes an effective team.”
Did you find the advice and support of the instructors helpful?
“It’s all valuable; you have instructors from all over the industry with their own experiences and abilities, quirks, tips, personalities. It helps you realise the situation of both inshore and offshore life, how they have adapted to it, problems and how they overcame them, who taught them, teams they learned from; it all ties together to help you get the full potential of the industry, but it’s all on you as the diver to make it work. These guys can give you the tickets and the advice, but only you can make it work. Being local, I’ve been back to the school and spoke with ALL of my instructors, laughing (now) about certain situations and how I reacted or applied techniques to the job at hand and it’s only because of the industry time I have gained, I can see what they meant by it all. They like the feedback, not because they knew they were right but because the penny has dropped for you and they were once in the very same place, so they know and clearly happy that the instruction has helped to further your new career change. There’s also the fact that some of these guys still have very real and current contacts within the industry; so work is available if you’re willing to be that guy or girl and take on board what they are telling you.”
Do you feel that having spent time in the various tasks to support a diver (such as tending, logging, etc) increased your employability?
“I wouldn’t say it means you’re more employable because you have done those tasks, but it certainly helps you understand what is required of you on any job site. Paperwork and the like is, sometimes, just as important as the actual task that you are on site to do and as long as you follow the guidelines set out by the client and the company you are working for, it does make life a lot easier and safer for everyone. Knowing how to tend a diver in the water is pretty important and you are an additional standby to fill any task required of you if things go sideways, which is the same as data entry; whether it’s filling out dive times and dive tables or just writing a report on what work has been carried out, is ALL valid. Having the school set up as a work site is very important and gives you the first look at a dive team on site and what is required of them, which means you are more employable because you know what is required of you.”
Do you think that the underwater tools and skills you gained at The Underwater Centre increased your chances of finding employment?
“Definitely. There is a lot to be said about having the right information in your head and, while various companies inevitably do things their own way, it is all based on the ONE way people have been taught. I was lucky that what I did over 3 months at the Centre I got to do on a job, whether it be surface demand or scuba, broco cutting or underwater welding, fixing a flange, working from a basket, drilling, cutting – the total school syllabus was applied in a working context, so it gave me an opportunity to see WHY things are done the way they are. Protocols, paperwork, rules, regulations, kit checks etc all there for your safety and ease of work and it’s quite clichéd to say it, but what you learn is how it is and that is just the basics. When your career goes further, you’ll learn new skills, ways of doing things, ways that certain companies prefer things, but they are based on a foundation of core skills that will be built on.”
For more information about the core skills received on our commercial diving courses visit our website here.
Alternatively contact our Student Advisors on +44 1397 703786 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Mikey McManus qualified as a commercial diver from The Underwater Centre, Fort William in November 2015. He got his first job just 3 days after completing his course. He tells us about finding commercial diving work, and provides advice and tips on getting started in your new career.
Tell us about your work as a commercial diver so far
“I went straight from the training school into work doing civils work and various other types including inspections, salvage & recovery, moorings, pier replacement and general boat work. I’ve worked constantly since leaving; networking with people and getting to know the industry. I’ve moved around a lot within Scotland, working on various projects from pier replacement in the Outer Hebrides to the new Aircraft Carrier at Rosyth Naval Base. Sometimes it IS about who you know but it’s also about who YOU are and whether you are a suitable team mate. You might be the best diver in the world, but if you don’t have the social skills to adapt to those around you, it gets noticed and like many industries, divers talk and the drums bang loud and far.”
How did you get your first commercial diving job?
“I live in Oban, on the West Coast of Scotland and there are a few local dive firms here, as well as larger marine service companies, but I picked the closest and sent an email with my CV attached. I also went around to their office to introduce myself and to make sure that my CV had reached the correct destination. Once there it was easy to put a face to a name and at least have a little conversation with guys who already work there, see if I knew anyone, or just ask about work currently on going and how these guys went about getting work.”
“I sent my CV far and wide and searched the web for every inshore diving company I could. I made sure my CV was up to date and relevant to the jobs that I applied for. Even if there was no job available it is always handy in case a last minute call is required and if your CV fits, you’ll get the call. You need to be diverse and the diving industry is very variant at the moment, so be prepared to do work OUT WITH diving – it’s not all about being under the water. I spent 3 months as a first mate on a marine science research vessel when the diving work dried up, but the experience was so valuable; I have learned more about networking and meeting people and as a result have experience in piloting a boat alongside cetaceans and marine mammals, how to approach, navigate near them, identify them, and gather information via hydrophone to collate and pass on to various scientific outlets around the world. I’ve met so many people that are all able to offer work as a result of that trip, and of course the opportunity was a very enjoyable experience that will stay with me and definitely open doors in the future.”
What advice do you have for students starting their first commercial diving work?
“Northwest Marine gave me a start; they had a lad on holiday, so there was a gap on the fish farm and moorings team. They also had a lad doing his dive course, who is on their books rather than self-employed, so they were two men down and gave me the opportunity to slot in and see how it was all going to pan out. It’s always difficult to slot in to an already established team, so you have to be mindful of how you approach that. Ask questions and never be afraid to get involved; the team will need the extra pair of hands and they need to know that you are ready to step up and apply the skills learned, but also learn how they do things on the job. Make sure you know who is who and where everything is and if you don’t know… ask a question. In my experience the only stupid question is one that you don’t ask. This company, like many, all started out as small companies and grew to become something bigger, so they know what it’s like and all show a little compassion for the new guy trying to get a foot on the ladder; if you are an asset and help them, they will reward you with work and a wage – the rest is up to you.”
Any final bits of career advice?
“I would simply say, keep at it and keep looking. It’s not easy and you won’t fall in to work, you need to keep track of it but be persistent and follow up on everything. In order to succeed, your desire for success should be greater than your fear of failure.”
In next week’s blog post Mikey will be talking about the ways in which his own career background and his commercial diver training contributed to his success.
For more information about commercial diver training visit our website here, or contact our Student Advisors on +44 1397 703 786 or email@example.com
Industry body Subsea UK have announced the finalists who are in the running to triumph at its 2017 business awards. Some of the country’s most innovative and successful subsea businesses have made it on to the final shortlist for the annual awards which seek to recognise companies and individuals who are leading the way in Britain’s £9billion subsea sector. We are delighted to announce that The Underwater Centre has been shortlisted for the Innovation in Safety Award for our role in the development of Commercial Enriched Air Nitrox training.
Development of Commercial Enriched Air Nitrox training
The subsea industry identified that a shortfall existed in the previous training available for supervisors, technicians, project managers and divers on the subject of Nitrox as a breathing medium. A lack of theoretical knowledge by supervisors and clients is potentially hazardous. With the help of several industry professionals we set about developing a course to address this perceived need, and so improve the safety of an entire dive team involved with Nitrox diving operations.
Nitrox significantly increases efficiency of divers and used correctly can add to the safety of this potentially vulnerable individual. Nitrox also brings with it an increase in other risks not apparent when using air. Being shortlisted shows that our training has significantly increased the awareness of the safety issues surrounding diving using Nitrox and especially to the supporting personnel of a Nitrox diving operation.
Steve Ham, Commercial Director said, “This course very much falls within our strategy of continuously improving our commercial diving courses to cater for industry needs.”
Demonstrating that the UK subsea sector can rise to the challenge
Commenting on all of the finalists, Neil Gordon, chief executive of Subsea UK, said, “Despite the continued downturn, these finalists have demonstrated that the UK subsea sector has what it takes to rise to the challenge – identifying ways to improve productivity and deliver much needed efficiencies.
“This ceremony allows us to come together once a year and really celebrate the expertise and pioneering work for which the subsea industry is renowned. The finalists have all demonstrated how they are supporting the industry as it adapts to a new environment which can deliver lasting results in the years to come.”
As part of ensuring best practice for industry, Nitrox training is now included in our commercial air diving package courses.
For more information about Commercial Enriched Air Nitrox training, visit our website here, or contact our Student Advisors on +44 1397 703786 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The experience of our instructors is one of the key foundations of the commercial diver and ROV training at The Underwater Centre; the way our instructors pass that experience on to students is just as important. One of the ways in which we ensure the quality of our teaching is by providing all instructors with tuition training.
Tuition skills to meet student’s career goals
Our commercial diving and ROV pilot technician instructors recently completed additional ‘Train the Trainer’ courses, building on their existing tuition skills. The Train the Trainer courses look at the key skills trainers need to teach effectively. Our instructors want to be sure they have the tools and confidence to deliver inspiring and stimulating training. The recent courses helped to fine-tune different parts of how each instructor delivers training and interacts with students. As well as helping to meet student’s career goals, we aim to provide a learning experience that is interesting and enjoyable.
The Train the Trainer courses also provide a measurement of how well the Instructor team at the Centre is doing. Feedback on each instructor was provided to allow for further development if required, and the high calibre of the teaching in place at The Underwater Centre was remarked upon. The training also includes a review of course design and evaluation to ensure that all of our courses are effective – meeting the expectations and needs of all students.
ISO 9001 audit – systems in place to ensure quality training
We have been providing industry-relevant subsea training for over 40 years. We’ve always understood that our student’s main goals are to complete their training successfully, and to increase their chances of employment. Maintaining the high quality of our training is crucial to those end goals, and regular training for our instructors is part of that quality management. The Underwater Centre was recently awarded ISO 9001 certification, which was an audit of our quality management systems – such as training for all instructors and assessors. The verification of those systems demonstrates our ability to meet our customer needs: students have peace of mind that the design and delivery of their training is well supported throughout.
To find out more about the range of support and experience provided to students on our commercial diving and ROV pilot technician courses, visit our website here.
Alternatively contact our Student Advisors on +44 1397 703784 or email email@example.com