Using difference modelling and computational fluid dynamics to investigate the evolution of complex, tidally influenced shipwreck sites

Jan Majcher, Rory Quinn, Thomas Smyth, Ruth Plets, C McGonigle, Kieran Westley, Fabio Sacchetti, Mark Coughlan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
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The large number of historic metal-hulled shipwrecks on the seabed is a major consideration for the marine environment, heritage management and spatial planning. Their stability is driven by linked hydro- and sediment-dynamics, which in turn influence chemical corrosion and biological encrustation. The dynamism at underwater sites is frequently expressed in elaborate patterns of depositional and erosional features developed due to seabed scour. These settings are complex, due to the variable morphologies of the wrecks, and diverse types of seabed geology and geomorphology. Not only are the flow patterns and geomorphic changes at shipwreck sites not fully understood, but how these influence the wreck structures remains under-researched. Here we combine high-resolution multibeam echosounder, ocean current and sediment data with 3D Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) to investigate interrelations between hydro- and sediment-dynamics and the deterioration of two complex, fully submerged tidally-influenced shipwrecks. Intricate patterns of wake and horseshoe vortices are observed, and modelled wall shear stresses predict geomorphic changes recorded in 4-year and one-week interval difference models. Moreover, substantial damage is detected on the wrecks, correlated with areas of elevated wall shear stress and pressure in CFD simulations. The combined approach aids site management and provides analogies for offshore engineering.
Original languageEnglish
Article number110625
Pages (from-to)1-22
Number of pages22
JournalOcean Engineering
Early online date22 Jan 2022
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 15 Feb 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This investigation was supported by the Marine Institute of Ireland's ship-time programme's funded projects ‘World War I shipwrecks in the Irish Sea: commemoration, visualization and heritage management’ (CV15021, CV16031) and ‘ Geohazard investigation in the Irish Sea using seismic and seabed mapping techniques (GIST) ’ (CV19027) and an Ulster University Vice-Chancellor's Research Studentship to Jan Majcher .

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Elsevier Ltd


  • Multibeam echosounder
  • Computational fluid dynamics
  • Shipwreck
  • Hydro-dynamics
  • Sediment-dynamics


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