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Ocean glider sets sail on longest journey of its kind
by Brooks Hays
Fremantle, Australia (UPI) Nov 4, 2016

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only

An ocean glider named Challenger set sail for Sri Lanka on Friday, departing the Western Australia port of Fremantle on the longest attempted journey by an autonomous underwater vehicle.

The glider was designed and built by a team of researchers at the University of Western Australia. Its journey from Fremantle to Galle, Sri Lanka will take roughly 12 months. If successful, the mini sub will attempt to circumnavigate the rim of the Indian Ocean, a two-year endeavor.

Challenger is designed to travel in a saw-tooth fashion, zig-zagging at a pace of roughly 15 to 20 miles per day, or a little less than a mile per hour. Along the way, the glider will collect a variety of ocean data, including current, temperature and salinity measurements.

Researchers hope the data will give them a better grasp on climate change's affects on the ocean.

"We want to collect data across the ocean basins and see how the temperature and salinity changes with depth," Charitha Pattiaratchi, a professor of coastal oceanography at UWA, said in a news release. "We are then able to compare previous measurements taken 40 years ago and see how the ocean has changed."

Scientists also expect the data to improve ocean storm prediction models.

"The heat content of the upper ocean has a big impact on storms like typhoons and hurricanes. Ultimately we hope to better improve our forecasts of storm intensity," added Scott Glenn, a scientist and professor from Rutgers University who is collaborating on the project.

Challenger is a Teledyne Webb Slocum electric glider, measuring just more than 7 feet in length.

Scientists on the project won't have to wait long to get started on data analysis; the glider will soon begin delivering data in nearly real time, sending observations to satellites each time it surfaces.

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