Subscribe to our free daily newsletters
. Earth Science News .

Subscribe to our free daily newsletters

Wave Glider surfs across stormy Drake Passage in Antarctica
by Staff Writers
Seattle WA (SPX) Sep 21, 2017

The Wave Glider near Antarctica's Palmer Station in December (that's summer for this region) before starting its epic voyage on the Southern Ocean. Credit Avery Snyder/University of Washington

The Southern Ocean is key to Earth's climate, but the same gusting winds, big waves and strong currents that are important to ocean physics make it perilous for oceanographers.

Instead their job is increasingly being given to ocean drones, the autonomous floating vehicles that collect data from the world's oceans. With an urgent need to better understand climate to predict how it will shift with more heat-trapping gases, scientists are developing new tools to measure waters below where satellites can penetrate, and in places that are too dangerous or expensive to reach regularly by research ship. They are also sending those instruments on increasingly ambitious missions.

Many of these new tools look like robotic fish, but the University of Washington sent a robotic surf board to ride the waves collecting data from Antarctica to South America. The Wave Glider, a long-duration ocean robot designed to operate in stormy conditions and high latitudes, can stay at sea for months patrolling for illegal fishing, listening for seismic events, collecting weather or ocean data and monitoring the environment. Last December, UW researchers sent it out on a first-ever attempt to cross the terrifically turbulent waters of Drake Passage.

The currents circling Antarctica that pose a challenge to mariners also mix significant heat energy from all the world's oceans. Most of that mixing happens in the top few hundred feet, where winds and waves basically put the surface layer on a spin cycle.

"The Southern Ocean, and the Drake Passage in particular, are key locations that are historically under-sampled," said first author Jim Thomson, an oceanographer at the UW's Applied Physics Laboratory. "Using an autonomous platform allowed us to have persistence in the region, as well as track or target the fronts and gradients that make the place so interesting." The recent paper in Oceanography recounts the pilot use of the Wave Glider to cross Drake Passage, a roughly 500-mile channel off the tip of South America.

The UW oceanographers used a commercial Wave Glider made by Liquid Robotics, a California-based subsidiary of the Boeing Co., to surf along the water's surface gathering observations. The researchers added extra sensors for temperature, salinity, air pressure, humidity and wind to the commercial model.

After a test run in summer 2016 off Washington's coast, the instrument was deployed off the Antarctic Peninsula in December. It spent about three months zigzagging its way across the fabled Drake Passage, while the researchers occasionally piloted the instrument remotely from shore.

As the study's authors wrote, this is where the strong Antarctic current becomes "a mess of swirling eddies" and meanders around its central path. "The zig-zag pattern in the middle of Drake Passage was designed to survey the strong fronts and meanders of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current common to that region," wrote Thomson and co-author James Girton, also with the UW's Applied Physics Laboratory.

A Wave Glider harnesses energy from the waves, using the shape of the water motion below the surface to drive the vehicle forward with minimal power. With wave energy for motion and solar panels charging batteries to power its sensors, the board can operate for months without maintenance.

Even so, the late-summer sun so far south did not provide enough energy to recharge batteries late into the expedition, and a research ship retrieved the instrument and its data near Argentina in late March. Though the board didn't reach South America, the real goal was the data it collected.

"The mission just completed would have cost many millions of dollars to complete with a ship," Thomson said. "An autonomous approach allowed us to collect data that has never - and would never have - been collected in this remote region."

The authors are still processing the observations collected during the voyage, which was funded by the National Science Foundation, to understand mixing on different spatial scales. They hope that future funding will allow another chance to collect more data and transition this program into regular annual monitoring of the Drake Passage.

"It's not just about having done this successfully once, it's about learning how to make this routine. We do that, and we change the game on data collection in this important region." Thomson said.

Research paper

SubSea Craft to display Diver Delivery Unit at DSEI 2017
Washington (UPI) Sep 11, 2017
SubSea Craft is set to display it's high-speed submersible Diver Delivery Unit at the Defense and Security Equipment International 2017 exhibition in London according to Janes. The DDU functions as a fast speedboat for delivering special forces and cargo to shore and back with the ability to submerge for the last few miles of approach to avoid detection. It is envisaged to be capable of ... read more

Related Links
University of Washington
Water News - Science, Technology and Politics

Thanks for being here;
We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook - our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don't have a paywall - with those annoying usernames and passwords.

Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

If you find our news sites informative and useful then please consider becoming a regular supporter or for now make a one off contribution.

SpaceDaily Contributor
$5 Billed Once

credit card or paypal
SpaceDaily Monthly Supporter
$5 Billed Monthly

paypal only

Comment using your Disqus, Facebook, Google or Twitter login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

In Dominica, islanders stand strong despite chaos

Frida, the four-legged heroine of Mexico's quake rescues

Psychologists help Mexico deal with double trauma of quake

NASA Tech Aids Search Following Mexico Quake

Space radiation is risky business for the human body

Corrosion in real time

Self-healing gold particles

'Naturally' glowing cotton yields dazzling new threads

Veolia's US growth hopes run into trouble

Puerto Rico rushes to evacuate many amid fears dam will burst

Wave Glider surfs across stormy Drake Passage in Antarctica

Two Vietnamese fishermen dead in Philippine navy chase

Researchers take on atmospheric effects of Arctic snowmelt

Impact of Arctic amplification on East Asian winter climate

Wind, Warm Water Revved Up Melting Antarctic Glaciers

Ice age may have clipped bird migration

Study identifies likely scenarios for global spread of devastating crop disease

Food labeling pact aims to cut food waste

Syngenta chief calls for debate on 'sustainable agriculture'

At Dubai expo, Chinese firms look to tap lucrative halal market

New quake shakes traumatized Mexico City

Conditions growing dire in hurricane-hit Puerto Rico

Tens of thousands flee rumbling Bali volcano

Thousands evacuated from Vanuatu island as volcano erupts

C. Africa asks UN to send more peacekeepers, ease arms embargo

New ceasefire signed by armed groups

Nigerian journalist detained over report on flood camp protest

West Africa steps up battle against pirates and poachers

Ancient human DNA in sub-Saharan Africa lifts veil on prehistory

Helping Ponso, sole survivor of 'Chimpanzee Island' in I. Coast

Cell phone data coupled with sewage testing show drug use patterns

Royal tomb of ancient Mayan ruler found in Guatemala

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2017 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement