UK: Royal Navy Warship HMS Echo Collects Vital Data in Gulf Waters


This is a Seabird unlike any you’ve seen before – unless you’re a naval hydrographer.

Which is exactly what LS Curtis Morris of HMS Echo is. The survey recorder – charged with collecting scientific data from the world’s oceans – lowers the hi-tech piece of kit into the waters of the Gulf on the latest stage of the ship’s epic two-year deployment.

The Devonport-based survey ship is enjoying an extended period east of Suez helping to update charts of the region’s waters and gathering key data about the characteristics seas.

The ship’s multi-beam echo sounder and side-scan sonars have already scanned miles and miles of ocean floor. The multi-beam provides the big picture, the side-scan is used to investigate contacts of interest detected on the seabed and provide more detailed information.

To date the ‘double act’ has located shipwrecks, huge underwater mountains, and oil pipelines, feeding all the information collected back to the UK Hydrographic Office in Taunton, where Admiralty Charts are produced.

In the case of the Seabird, it is left in the sea to conduct ‘profiling’: it measures the temperature, salinity and pressure at various depths.

To use Seabird you need relatively benign conditions, something which isn’t necessarily guaranteed in the height of summer in the Gulf.

Although outside temperatures often reach the high 40s Celsius – demanding for the ship’s company working outside and for the air conditioning plants trying to keep Echo and her sailors cool, which they have done thanks to the sterling efforts of the engineers – the survey vessel has been buffeted by the shamal, a seasonal wind which blows across Iraq, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

The shamal brings sand and dust. At worst, wind+sand = sandstorm; at best, the high levels of dust in the air can severely reduce visibility, putting great strain on bridge team as small vessels often do not loom out of the gloom until they’re particularly close to Echo.

It’s not all sand and dust, however. The ship’s company have enjoyed some downtime in Dubai, where essential maintenance was also carried out on the 3,500-tonne vessel to allow her to remain away from the UK for so long.

The other key factor in ensuring Echo can complete a two-year deployment is to rotate her ship’s company. Of the 72 souls assigned to the ship, only 48 are aboard at any one time; the remaining third are in Britain undergoing training and courses or enjoying leave with loved ones.

Source: royalnavy, September 8, 2011;