First Basin Tasmania

The City of Launceston has recently partnered with AMC Search, the training and consulting division of the Australian Maritime College (AMC), completing the first ever autonomous underwater survey of the First Basin at Launceston’s Cataract Gorge.

For generations, myths and urban legends have circulated within the Launceston community around the First Basin and what lies beneath the surface.

Tall tales have been spun of a giant sea creature lurking in the muddy depths, or that the Basin itself may  stretch down for hundreds of metres deep. 

Despite evidence to the contrary, mapping of the Basin over the past decade has done little to quell those wild-eyed rumours, but a new ACM survey can finally put all those highly questionable stories to bed once and for all.

AMC Search manager of Defence and Autonomous Systems, Chris White, said that the survey had ‘mapped’ the bottom of the First Basin and was completed using the ‘EduCat’ micro autonomous surface vessel.

“The EduCat is 1.8m long, weighs 35kg and was designed and built at the AMC,” Mr White said.

“We fitted EduCat with a multi-beam sonar for this survey, with 8.2 million individual depths recorded. This represents the most comprehensive bathymetric survey of the Basin that has ever been completed.”

Mr White said that the survey was planned and executed by trainees undertaking AMC Search’s Autonomous or Uncrewed Surface Vehicle (USV) Operator course.

Under the supervision of AMC Staff, the mapping project gave the trainees real-world experience in one of the many applications of autonomous technologies.

Mr White said that on survey day, public interest in the project was extremely high, with scores of eager onlookers speculating on what might be found.

“Some of those suggestions included car wrecks, sea monsters and extreme depths,” Mr White said.

However, the actual result may be somewhat disappointing for those with a more active imagination.

“Interestingly, the survey results showed that the First Basin contains more than 178 million litres of water – or the equivalent of 71 Olympic swimming pools worth of water,” Mr White said.

“On the day of the survey, the maximum depth of the First Basin was just under 21 metres, or 20.59m to be precise.

“Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on your perspective, the survey also proved that there appear to be no cars or sea monsters lurking in the Basin’s depths.”

City of Launceston Mayor, Danny Gibson, said the underwater mapping project showcased the talents of the staff and students at the Maritime College in Launceston’s Northern Suburbs.

“For many years now the AMC has been at the cutting edge of scientific maritime research on a world scale,” Mayor Gibson said.

“What we’ve witnessed here through this research project is the real-world application of those skills and that research and one that will no doubt generate more than its fair share of conversation and conjecture.”

Autonomous Maritime Systems technician and operator, David Box, said the College had designed and built EduCat to support the delivery of the AMC’s Autonomous Survey Vessel courses.

“This particular EduCat model is the third generation of ASV we have in our Autonomous Maritime System Laboratory,” Mr Box said.

“It’s great to be able to use this technology for practical applications and to capture data to better understand the environment around us.”


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