Paddy O’Driscoll has the unique job of controlling Ireland’s only remotely operated vehicle used for deep-water expeditions.
A love of the water as well as an interest in technology led Paddy into the field of marine electronics and communications.
Now working with P&O Maritime Services, who are responsible for the technical management of Ireland’s national research vessels, he has the unique job of controlling the high tech vehicle the ROV Holland 1.
Having studied marine electronics and communications in Limerick, Paddy went on to work as an onboard technical officer with cruise liners before coming back to Ireland to work with a marine surveying company.
After a number of years, he began working on the marine research vessels the Celtic Explorer and Celtic Voyager, where he became involved in the development of the ROV Holland 1.
The ROV is used for deep-water research and expeditions and can dive to depths of 3,000 metres. It is equipped with an underwater camera, which captures footage of depths and marine life rarely seen by the world.
As pilot of the ROV, Paddy has been involved in a number of expeditions, including cold-water coral sampling off the West and South West coast of Ireland.
He has also played a part in joint training exercises with the Irish Naval Services and Irish Coast Guard focusing on the recovery of the ‘black box’ from aircraft in the event of a crash landing in Irish waters.
One of Paddy’s most recent and exciting expeditions, known as the Venture Scientific Cruise, involved the discovery of underwater hydrothermal vents along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, just north of the Azores. The discovery was made by the ROV at a depth of 3,000 metres, thanks to Paddy’s piloting skills.
For the first time Paddy, along with scientists from Ireland and Britain, witnessed life in one of the planet’s most unforgiving environment, taking footage of the mysterious “chimney-like” volcanic formations that line the ocean floor along the earth’s tectonic plates.
The discovery has been named ‘Moytirra Vent Field’ after a battlefield in Irish mythology and appropriately means ‘Plain of the Pillars.’ The largest chimney found by Paddy and the team measured over ten metres and has been named Balor after a legendary giant.
The hydrothermal vents, which spew mineral-rich seawater heated to boiling point by volcanic rock in the Earth’s crust below, are home to a rich variety of marine life that thrives in complete darkness on bacteria fed by chemicals.
Using the ROV’s high-definition video camera, Paddy was able to capture a number of rare species on film including orange-bodied shrimp, writhing scale-worms, swirling mats of bacteria and eel-like fish living in some of the Earth’s deepest waters.
Footage of the expedition, which was in conjunction with National Geographic, has been made in to a documentary called ‘Alien Deep: It’s Alive’ and is due to air on Irish television in October.