For a few days in August, visitors to the Blue Lagoon and Abereiddi could be forgiven for thinking that they’d just entered a Dr Who film set.
Small white spheres had materialised across the beach and within the quarry worker cottages and the Blue lagoon. A space-age tripod ‘thing’ sat at the centre of the orbs, slowly rotating, occasionally nodding to itself and silently spinning back to its start position.
This was science without the fiction though. Using a state of the art Leica 3D laser scanner – a piece of equipment with a five figure price tag – a team of researchers from Bangor University were, in between ice creams, busy compiling a high definition model of Abereiddi beach and the Blue Lagoon area. Their work was part of the SEACAMS project, and we’d asked them to help us understand the coastal erosion at this place and record for posterity the historic features exposed by the incredible storms of early 2014.
SEACAMS aims to improve access for businesses in the marine and coastal sector to expertise and facilities in Higher Education. The project, a partnership between Bangor, Swansea and Aberystwyth Universities, started in 2011 and is funded by the Welsh European Funding Office, part of the Welsh Government.
Once in position, the laser scanner was calibrated using the white spheres dotted around it, before setting it off on its automated scan of the surroundings. The SEACAMS team processed the data back at Bangor, removing images of any bystanders who may have been unavoidably caught by the scanner.
The laser scanner records features to millimetre accuracy. A return visit in 2015 will reveal the changes in sediment distribution and rock placement and allow us to check the predictions of the coastal change study undertaken by Royal Haskoning in 2009, around the time when the county council were planning to remove the sea wall.
The early screen shots from the data are eerily beautiful, but the really interesting results will come when the 3D model is complete. We want this information to be more than just another record of the historic features of this place and an insight into the coastal process at work here. We hope that this model will help keep the special qualities of this place, as we currently know them, alive long after the physical evidence has been claimed by the sea.