The hi-tech sonar equipment of the Devonport-based survey ship mapped the huge feature for the first time, and it will now be marked on charts to prevent other seafarers running into it.
The Echo was sent east of Suez at the beginning of last year to help improve charts of the region’s waters and gather key hydrographic data. The enormous mound – the correct term is ‘sea mount’ – is quite literally the biggest success of Echo’s deployment.
Yemeni fishermen evidently knew the mount existed. The Echo found a dhow anchored on its summit as she carried out her survey of the area. Charts of the area suggested the sea was 1,263ft/385m deep, but over an eight-hour period, the Echo collected reams of information to prove otherwise.
Some 24 hours later, after processing all that information, the survey ship’s computers produced 3D imagery which revealed the true extent of the mount. It rises to just 131ft/40m below the surface of the Red Sea, deeper than the deepest draft of any civilian or military surface ship, but a definite danger to submarines passing between the Mediterranean and the Middle East.
“We were actually looking for volcanoes. The southern Red Sea region has seen a significant amount of recent tectonic and volcanic activity with several volcanoes emerging from the sea close to the Yemeni coast line,” said Commander Matt Syrett, the ship’s commanding officer.
“We didn’t find any. But we did find this. It is absolutely massive, and finding it is something which really makes everybody on board feel good. “As it’s a danger to other seafarers, it’s been reported to the United Kingdom Hydrographic Office and is expected to appear on new charts of the region in the near future.”