The Magazine for Underwater Professionals

Jan/Feb 2020


Society for Underwater Technology

AGM and awards

The SUT had an enjoyable AGM in London at Trinity House on the evening of 16 December. We announced our new members of Council – Terry Griffiths and Julie Morgan of the Perth Branch, Professor Frank Lim of the China Branch and Bob MacDonald from the UK.

Dr Philomene Verlaan received her fellowship of the SUT in recognition of her services to the scientific understanding, legal status and policy development in support of deep seafloor mineral resources.

We also announced fellow status of Martin Harley of the Aberdeen Branch, Sarah Elkhatib of the Perth Branch and Kerry Campbell and Tricia Hill of the USA Branch.

The Houlder Cup for outstanding contribution to diving or underwater operators was awarded to Dr Philip Bryson for his long-term contribution to diving medicine and the emergency treatment of divers, and our Oceanography Award went to Professor Penny Holliday of the UK National Oceanography Centre for her contribution to sustained ocean observations in the North East Atlantic and her strong advocacy for women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Our President’s Award was made to Ian Wilson of the Perth Branch in recognition of his extensive contribution to the underwater engineering industry, culminating in the establishment of subsea engineering as a chartered area of practice within Engineers Australia’s Chartered Professional Engineer (CPEng) accreditation.

We also announced that SUT is launching an Ocean Patrons scheme for members who are able to offer an enhanced level of contribution to support our charitable objectives.

Finally, Mark Beattie-Edwards, CEO of the Nautical Archaeology Society, gave an excellent talk on the story of the exploration of the wreck of the warship London (1665) in the Thames Estuary, which could be the Mary Rose of the 21st century.

We thank Trinity House for its splendid venue, our members for turning up on a wet December evening in spite of industrial action by one of the local rail companies, and our London staff who helped ensure an enjoyable and productive evening was had by all.

Rising seas - the case for moving to higher ground

The London & South of England Branch hosted its first event at the prestigious new Institute of Physics on Caledonian Road, London. The presentation was given by leading oceanographer, consultant and expert on sea level rise, John Englander. A broad marine science background coupled with explorations to Greenland and Antarctica enables John to see the big picture of sea level rise and its societal impacts.

Today, John works with businesses, governmental agencies and communities to understand the risks of increased flooding due to rising seas, extreme tides, and severe storms, advocating for “intelligent adaptation”. As a conduit for information on this critical subject, he has founded the non-profit, Rising Seas Institute.

John’s fascinating talk, was deliberately given in plain clear English. The world is confused by messages regarding, plastic, CO2, carbon, floods, sea ice melting etc. The result can be people thinking that re-using a plastic bag will suddenly halt the melting of ice in Greenland. The presentation’s aims were to focus attention on what is likely to happen in time frames that people can understand, i.e. within their expected life spans or before their mortgage is paid off.

The presentation was not given to panic the world, but to give a message to be more prepared. In John’s words, this means planning for a sea level rise of one metre now, but ideally considering three metres.

Coastlines have not changed for the last 5000 years and this leads to complacency that they will not change now. In fact, they have changed dramatically through the last four ice ages, sea level fluctuating by over 150 metres in the last 125,000 years. Coming out last ice age, sea level rose by 50 centimetres a decade. The migration of animals depicted on our movie screens is based on fact!

John explained why the rate of rising seas will likely increase exponentially. Recent developments in Antarctic ice core analysis now give a clear log of CO2 and temperature through the ice ages. Human industrial output of CO2 has now exceeded the maximum in the warm periods between ice ages and is still on an exponential increase. This has switched the ice age cycle, instead of starting to cool into another ice age we are continuing to warm. The Arctic and Northern latitudes have taken the brunt of climate change with the temperature increasing by 3°C already. Sea ice melting actually causes the sea level to drop, but now we have an Arctic Ocean that is dark water absorbing heat rather than an ice sheet reflecting it. Thermal expansion of the oceans from this heat absorption is a key reason for sea level rise.

There was an excellent round table discussion following John’s presentation on how society comes to terms with the sea level rise. In reality, even if some of the world is in denial of the causes of climate change, humans now need to respond to the consequence of the current level of green house gases (GHG) in the atmosphere. Climate repair was discussed, though some ideas would require geo-engineering on a vast scale, like coating the Arctic Ocean with reflective glass beads. Singapore is already planning for a four-metre rise in sea level, even poor communities in Bangladesh have developed effective floating islands to live on, so there is some hope! The discussion touched on another exponential effect: that of release of methane from melting permafrost which is 30 times more potent as a GHG than CO2. But at this point the meeting adjourned for some welcome cheese and wine!

John Englander’s bestselling book, High Tide On Main Street: Rising Sea Level and the Coming Coastal Crisis, clearly explains the science, the impending devastating economic effects and the opportunity to design for a more resilient future. Moving to Higher Ground – the title of his next book – will be coming out this year.

Moreover, the core presentation slides are available on for us all to understand and share.

Richard Binks





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