Sea bed mapping to begin next week

The Cayman Islands will soon have new and updated maps of the seabed that surrounds it thanks to a new hydrographic survey project being undertaken by the Lands and Survey Department.

One of the key pieces of equipment in the survey is a new, specially equipped boat which will be launched on 19 January, said a GIS press release.

Data generated from this project will be used to develop several products including a hazard-loss model for hurricanes and new nautical charts for boaters, the release said.

This first-of-its-kind project in the Cayman Islands is funded by the Portfolio of Internal and External Affairs.

The vessel, The Aliceann, named after Registrar of Land Aliceann Kirchman, the longest serving member of the department at 34 years, is a 28-foot Merpanga boat. It has been modified by the department into a ‘bespoke’ survey vehicle (that is, one specially adapted to local needs).

Heading the survey team is surveyor John Phillips, Senior Geomatician at Lands and Survey. A qualified helmsman will round off the two-person crew, scheduled to conduct the survey from January to June, the release said.

During the same period a contractor will survey the Sister Islands using comparable equipment. Director of Lands and Survey Alan Jones explained, ‘Due to our tight schedule in having this survey completed before the beginning of the 2006 hurricane season, we have contracted out the Sister Islands’ component.’

Surveyor Philips explained the process: ‘Over a six-month period we will methodically travel from 300ft beyond the ‘drop off’ around the island to the shore, take readings to show the contours and features of the ocean floor around the entire island, as well as give us accurate depth readings.’

Giving some background, Mr. Jones said: ‘While hydrography has always been a theoretical responsibility of the department we have never before had the opportunity to develop the in-house skills base. The new boat and other specialised equipment which is being purchased allows us to offer for the first time an ongoing technical resource for the country.

‘It will be one of only a handful of such set-ups available in the Caribbean.’

Other equipment includes a GPS system, sensitive to several millimetres, and an extended Bimini top to provide cover at the front of the boat where the surveyor will work.