Spatial and temporal variability in geomorphic change at tidally influenced shipwreck sites: The use of time‐lapse multibeam data for the assessment of site formation processes

Jan Majcher, Rory Quinn, Ruth Plets, Mark Coughlan, Chris McGonigle, Fabio Sacchetti, Kieran Westley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
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Shipwrecks are an integral part of our maritime archaeological landscape and are associated with diverse societal and cultural interests, yielding significant management challenges. Coupled hydrodynamic and geomorphological processes significantly impact the effective in situ preservation of these fragile sites. In this study, we assess sediment budget change and hydrodynamic triggers at metal‐hulled shipwrecks lost between 1875 and 1918, all located in the tidally dominated Irish Sea at depths between 26 and 84 m. This is conducted using time‐lapse, multibeam echosounder surveys at multiannual, annual, and weekly time steps, supported by sediment grain‐size analysis, modeled ocean currents, and shallow seismic data. Results indicate significant changes at all time steps for sites located in sand‐dominated environments, whereas the seabed around shipwrecks settled in multimodal sediments shows virtually no change outside of measurement errors (±30 cm). Variability in geomorphic change is attributed to local environmental factors, including bed shear stress, sediment supply, and spatial barriers to scour. We demonstrate that individual wrecks in similar shelf sea regions can be in very different equilibrium states, which has critical implications for the in situ management of underwater cultural heritage.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-26
Number of pages26
Early online date9 Jan 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 9 Jan 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors specially thank Andrew Conway and the MI Oceanographic Services Team for their assistance with the ocean current data compilation. They thank the reviewers and the associate editor for their insights, which helped them to improve the manuscript. They would also like to thank Carlos Loureiro for advice regarding the buoy data. Additionally, they express their gratitude to Alex Braun, Annika Clements, Shauna Creane, Mekayla Dale, Eoghan Daly, Megan Dolan, Cristiana Giglio, Rory McNeary, Rory O'Loughlin, Kevin Sheehan, and Viacheslav Sobolev for their help with the hydrographic and seismic data acquisition and processing, to Cynthia Sassenroth and Mary Therese Kelly for processing the sediment samples and finally to the crew of for their passion and never‐ending patience when surveying the wrecks. This study was supported by the Marine Institute of Ireland's ship‐time programme's APP‐CV15021, CV16031: , APP‐CV19027: (GIST), Ulster University Vice‐Chancellor's Research Studentships and (INFOMAR) programme's surveys CV10_01, CV09_05, CV08_03. Open access funding enabled and organized by Projekt DEAL. RV Celtic Voyager World War I shipwrecks in the Irish Sea: commemoration, visualization and heritage management Geohazard investigation in the Irish Sea using seismic and seabed mapping techniques the Integrated Mapping for the Sustainable Development of Ireland's Marine Resource

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 The Authors. Geoarchaeology published by Wiley Periodicals LLC.

Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • marine geoarchaeology
  • seabed geomorphology
  • sediment transport
  • shipwreck
  • site formation processes


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