Just as the photographers of landscapes want to share the scenes they capture, marine scientists want to share the hidden terrains that make the seafloor so captivating. That is the goal of a new initiative that uses marine surveys to create visually stunning artworks.
Visual Soundings is a new website and art collection showcasing the wonders found through multibeam echosoundings (MBES). The contributors to this site have been ‘listening’ to the seafloor for decades with increasingly sophisticated technology, and are now sharing what they have found to a wider audience.
Dr Lucieer, a marine spatial analyst behind the Visual Soundings collection, said seafloor images are usually studied with a scientific eye rather than from an artistic perspective, which means the breathtaking beauty of marine landscapes are often overlooked.
“We’re familiar with the appearance of the Moon and even the surface of Mars is well-documented thanks to NASA’s rovers, but still only five per cent of the world’s oceans have been mapped in any detail,” Dr Lucieer said.
“In recent years, however, new techniques such as multibeam echosounders have revolutionised scientists’ knowledge of the appearance, shape and structure of the seabed.
“In doing so, they sometimes reveal startlingly beautiful glimpses of the seafloor that look more like works of art than scientific data.”To get stories like this delivered to your mailbox every week, subscribe to our weekly newsletter.
Simple echosounding and other techniques have been used for many years to make maps of the seabed, primarily for safety of navigation, based on the depth measurements (soundings).
More advanced acoustic techniques, most significantly multibeam echosounders have revolutionised our knowledge of the shape and structure of the seabed over the last couple of decades. MBES have now evolved to become the standard system for mapping the oceans, lakes and rivers.
Traditionally, MBES systems have been ship hull mounted but more recently have been adapted to Remotely controled Underwater Vehicles (ROVS) and Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs).
Dr Lucieer encourages others to contribute their own artworks to the catalogue.
“My colleague Margaret Dolan and I wanted to share the sense of wonder that we often experience when studying acoustic images,” she said.
“Through Visual Soundings we are sharing some of our favourite images and inviting others to contribute their own acoustic images.”
Dr Lucieer, who exhibited her first works in the 2016 exhibition Oceans of the Unknown, said she had been keen to reveal the beauty of seafloor dynamics through an artistic avenue throughout her career as a marine spatial analyst.