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3 Mar 2020

Exploring the deep

Written by Donald Mackenzie, Harbourmaster
Part of the new bathymetric chart of Canna Harbour, showing the pier and surrounding water depth
Part of the new bathymetric chart of Canna Harbour
The National Trust for Scotland recently commissioned a high-tech bathymetric survey of Canna Harbour, using a fixed wing drone and a remotely controlled survey vessel.

Canna Harbour is the only fully operational commercial harbour operated by the National Trust for Scotland and one of its responsibilities is to ensure safe navigation for all vessels using the port. A key requirement is to have an accurate understanding of the depth of the harbour and a sea chart to aid navigation.

The last official survey of the harbour on Canna was carried out in the 19th century using a lead and line.

Our recent survey used slightly more advanced techniques! With the help of Inverness-based company Caintech, a new chart has been produced bringing our understanding of what lies beneath the surface of the harbour into the 21st century.

An ROV (remotely operated vehicle) at work in a harbour in front of boats
The ROV (remotely operated vehicle) at work in front of visiting boats from Skye

Using an overhead drone and a remotely operated surface vessel, the survey took three days to complete and caused quite a stir with visiting yachts as the unmanned yellow boat weaved its way amongst the boats in the harbour.

A trailer-based control room managed the whole operation from the safety of the pier and we were able to watch the mapping process in real time.

An ROV (remotely operated vehicle) at work in a harbour in front of boats
A small-scale version of the full chart

The new chart is now on display in the Harbour Office on Canna and further information can be obtained by contacting the Harbourmaster on

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