Ever get the feeling you're sailing over a mountaintop? No? Apparently, vessels frequenting the Red Sea have been doing so for years.
HMS Echo, a survey ship of the Royal Navy based in Devonport, recently discovered a massive underwater rock formation (formally labeled a "sea mount") at the bed of the Red Sea. Previously unmarked, the mount will now be added to updated editions of area charts. The finding is the most productive voyage for Echo thus far.
Local Yemeni fisherman apparently knew of the mount; Echo found a vessel anchored to it as she surveyed the area. A full analysis of the hydrographic data (gathered via depth sounders and computer analysis) proved that it rises within 131 feet of the water's surface. Although this depth proves safe for military vessel's draught, patrolling submarines could run into catastrophic danger had the mount had not been identified.
Commander Matt Syrett (commanding officer of Echo), noted that the critical discovery was in fact unintended; "We were actually looking for volcanoes – the southern Red Sea region has seen a significant amount of recent tectonic and volcanic activity with several volcanoes emerging from the sea close to the Yemeni coastline… We didn't find any. But we did find this… it's been reported to the United Kingdom Hydrographic Office and is expected to appear on our new charts for the region in the near future."
Syrett pointed out that despite the difficulty many civilians might encounter trying to identify the direct effects the Royal Navy has, in this and other missions, this finding in particular has a "tangible effect". Other information gathered by the Echo, now located in the Mediterranean Sea, might include a sunken WWII "Liberty Ship" off the coast of Tripoli. Suggestions of the structure's origin and nature were ascertained through its (historically significant) location and hull shape. The size of the vessel might also give its identity away: It is equivalent to 11 double-decker buses – parked in nine rows, stacked five deep.