At the recent Oceanology International conference in London, the SAMS diving unit was presented with the Inshore/Inland Diving Conference Subsea Science award for 2006. The award was made to Dr Martin Sayer (left), the head of the unit, in recognition of the establishment and achievements of the world’s first national facility for scientific diving. The Presentation was made by the executive secretary of the Society for Underwater Technology, Cdr Ian Gallett.
The National Facility for Scientific Diving, which is funded by the Natural Environment Research Council, is hosted at Dunstaffnage and was established in 2003. As well as providing guidance and advice to other UK scientific diving units on matters such as safety and technical procedures, the unit also undertakes its own programme of research and development.
In presenting the prize, the awarding committee recognised that many of the technical innovations being developed at Dunstaffnage were relevant to the diving industry as a whole and not just the scientific community. The committee also felt that the work of the diving unit was helping to promote Oban globally as an excellent environment for undertaking underwater science and technology.
Accepting the award, Dr Sayer acknowledged that the reputation of the unit at Dunstaffnage was built upon the pioneering endeavours of Alan Gale, the first laboratory chief diver, during the 1970s and 80s. Dr Sayer went on to state that the recent achievements of the facility could not have been achieved without the outstanding support of the current diving technical support team of Simon Thurston and Hugh Brown.
The diving unit at SAMS is currently supporting a range of diving projects in both Polar regions as well as some tropical and sub-tropical locations. Scientists from all over the UK can apply for diving support from the Dunstaffnage team and the work presently being done ranges from relatively simple sampling techniques right through to three-dimensional mapping of areas of seabed using underwater sonar units. Both the inshore and military diving sectors have shown interest in some of the technical evaluations being made at Dunstaffnage involving the use of full-face masks and underwater positioning equipment.