A GIANT eight-legged ‘walking’ barge is turning heads at a county beauty spot.

Wavewalker 1 – which boasts a 32 metre by 32 metre deck area and 40 metre-long legs – is able to move across the seabed without having to be pulled or lifted.

One of only a few walking jack-up barges in the world, it is being used to carry out geotechnical surveys off Thorntonloch Beach, south-east of Dunbar, as part of the £2 billion Neart Na Gaoithe (NnG) Offshore Wind Farm project.

The EDF Renewables’ wind farm’s 53 turbines will be erected in the outer Firth of Forth, 30km north of Torness. Works starts in June and should be completed in 2023.

NnG’s onshore grid connection is at Crystal Rig wind farm in the Lammermuir Hills, with a new substation to be built near Innerwick. The marine cables linking the wind farm to the National Grid will come ashore at Thorntonloch.

Wavewalker 1, which has two built-in cranes, is drilling boreholes close to the shore at Thorntonloch and at its intertidal area, including the beach, in preparation for the export cables being laid.

NnG, which will be much closer to the Fife coast (15.5km distance) then East Lothian’s, has a capacity of about 450 megawatts of low-carbon energy and will offset more than 400,000 tonnes of Co2 emissions each year.

Matthias Haag, NnG project director, said: “It’s a really exciting time for NnG and having the WaveWalker 1 at Thorntonloch Beach carrying out this geotechnical survey is clear evidence of the project now entering the construction phase.

“This survey will provide us with important information on the ground conditions that we need before laying the export cables that will link NnG to the National Grid via a new substation which will be built near Innerwick onshore.”

The WaveWalker 1 is specifically designed to offer a safe and secure solution for marine operations in areas typically affected by weather and tides, and on beaches.

Since its launch in 2012, it has carried out a variety of operations for marine projects across the globe, including geotechnical site investigations for offshore wind farms, offshore cable installation, offshore windfarm operations and maintenance, drilling and blasting, and other underwater work.

To ensure public safety during these surveys, access to Thorntonloch Beach is restricted and the public should remain at least 100 metres from the WaveWalker.

Safety vehicles will patrol the beach 24 hours a day during the survey period and will be able to escort anyone wishing to cross the beach.