(This article was originally published on OceanLines on August 11, 2008.)
A 93 inch, 134 pound unmanned yellow glider is nearly half way through with its underwater journey from New Jersey to Spain. It left New Jersey on May 21st on its mission to gather data about the salinity and temperature of the Atlantic Ocean.
After 79 days at sea the glider has traveled a total of 4,038km, according to the data supplied by its latest check-in at 12:35 GMT on August 8. At this time it recorded an ocean temperature of 19.7 degrees celsius and salinity of 36.9%.
The sub, developed and operated by ocean engineers and other students at Rutgers University, is sponsored by NOAA and the information it receives is shared with the Navy and other agencies. Every day the students monitor its progress, gather information and map out a course for the day based on weather patterns and currents around the glider.
This is different from any other boat or sub sent across the Atlantic because this is a battery powered, unmanned glider called the RU17, officially named Scarlet Knight after the school’s mascot. The RU17 literally glides through the water using wings and as little battery power as possible. In order to conserve power the students direct the Scarlet Knight towards currents. For much of its journey it has been using the Gulf Stream. By altering its buoyancy, which the students can do from the Coastal Ocean Observation Laboratory (COOL) Room all the way back at Rutgers, the glider can find the currents and use them for speed. The glider sucks water in to increase its density and sink, and it pushes water back out to become less dense and rise again.
When the glider ascends all the way and reaches the surface it sends data to a satellite and the students can then track its position with the GPS. Then, based on its current position, they can modify its course to get it back on track or pick up on other currents.
Vice Admiral Conrad C. Lautenbacher, undersecretary of Commerce for oceans and atmosphere, explains that “the big advantage is, it’s totally unmanned. It’s very efficient and can be used to obtain the same kind of data we gather from ships.” This means that for less money and with less people we can gather exactly the same information, allowing us to learn more about the ocean that we know so little about.
Copyright © 2008 by OceanLines