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Tasmanian study illuminates lake depths

Tasmanian researchers have probed the depths of Australia’s deepest glacial lake with a technique they hope could be used to advance lake-bed mapping.

Australian Maritime College naval architecture thesis student Sam Hunnibell used a torpedo-shaped autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV), UBC-Gavia, to map the significant lake bed features of Lake St Clair in the Tasmanian Highlands, gaining information about region’s geological and glaciological history.

“This research shows how AUV mounted acoustics can be used to accurately identify glacial features that occurred during the last Tasmanian glacial maximum 20,000 years ago,” Hunnibell said.

"It provides the foundation for improving lake surveys, which could potentially impact future limnology research and geological surveys,” Mr Hunnibell said.

Although much work has been done using AUVs to map ocean floors, research into AUV-mapping of lake beds is in its infancy, but shows particular promise for lakes where access is difficult for larger vessels.

The results of Hunnibell’s work will be fed into Bare Earth Tasmania, a University of Tasmania that is aiming to create a digital elevation model of Tasmania, in order to recreate past glacier environments.