Archive for June 28th, 2011

Living on the Edge

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

Hey all,

Well quite a bit has happened since we last checked in, so lets jump back to Friday afternoon.

After giving us quite a scare less than a day into its mission where Challenger 1 missed its call home due to technical failures on our end, the glider almost mockingly called in once an hour for over 10 strait hours Friday afternoon through Saturday morning.  But it wasn't just trying to prove a point to its parents like an obnoxious teenager, it was running a series of tests.  The results allowed Challenger 1 to auto tune it's own ballast settings, which will allow for it to most effectively navigate the depths with its saw tooth flight pattern.  This nifty trick may prove to be very beneficial as we move south to waters with different densities that may require a re ballasting.

The next great update is that on Sunday, Challenger 1 crossed the shelf break and is now flying in deep water.  After the first dive to 1000m, we were already seeing improvements in the flight pattern.  We are flying straighter, meaning that by flying deeper we are being effected less by the surface currents which are moving in a North- West direction (the exact opposite of where we want).  Flying to 1000m depths also really helps us out with battery power.  Going that deep, we only make 2 oscillations over about an 8 hr period which means we are going further along our track while only having to make the internal movements necessary to make climbs or dives twice between surfacings (compared to 6 times when we were in shallower waters).

Today we began our global collaboration to choose waypoints to pilot the glider now that testing is done and we are truly on our way.  Antonio and our friends at University Las Palmas Gran Canaria gave us some great advise on either taking a route that takes us directly to the Canaries, or further out west towards the Azores.  The path heading directly to the Canaries will offer us a more direct route through waters that are very well known and modeled.  The other option will put us in less sampled waters where we will very likely find discrepancies in our models, similar to what we saw during the 27 mission.  The westerly route also leaves us the option of swinging by our old service station, The Azores, if we run into any real trouble along our journey.  There is a draw back however of that this will add about 15% to our journey and may lead to problems if we don't have sufficient battery.

Our decision for the time being is to just focus on getting south out of the colder waters for now.  The sooner we do this the better, as the cold waters tend to cause our batteries to be drained much faster than if we were in warmer waters.  The good news is that we are moving at break neck speeds!  Typically the gliders we have worked with in the past have gone an average around 1km/hr.  Challenger 1 however has been recording speeds up to 1.35km/hr!  Hopefully if we continue to make good time, we will get out to safer waters and we can continue on our historic journey.

Finally we have a quick update on the conditions Challenger 1 is facing:

The glider is flying smoothly and will now be surfacing every six to eight hours. In this picture you can see her slow but inevitable descent from colder Northern waters into the ever-warming waters of her Southern location.

Here's a picture of the shipping routes in our general path, the coast is clear for now. As expected, there is a lot of activity along the East of our path but we'll have Silbo navigate efficiently through whatever comes our way.

-Nilsen & Oliver