Archive for May, 2014

Until Next Time

Wednesday, May 21st, 2014

It looks like this is how Challenger will remain for the time being: a skeleton


A decision has been made and it looks like our team will come home and return to Brazil a ways down the road to get 29 back in the water.

A number of developments over the past week have led to this conclusion. First of which, we don't have the R/V Alpha Delfino that we used for recovery. The ship is sill in Santos as the University has gone on strike.  Without the Delfino or it's crew, we are left without a vessel capable of getting us to deep water for the deployment.

The trilux 33 paint  that worked so beautifully on RU29 to keep her free of barnacles and other biological growth over the previous mission is still stuck in customs.  After searching local boating stores, it was discovered that the product is extremely rare in Brazil and it is unlikely that we will find any in a timely manner

Without a deployment in deep water and lacking the bio foul paint, we will really be pushing the limits of the battery packs as we attempt to cross back to Cape Town.  In the shallows, battery consumption is 2-3 times more than flying to the full 1000 m depth.  Coupled with the increased time in productive waters, the odds will be stacked against us.

So for now the deployment will be delayed until further notice.  The parts that need repairs have been packed in Scott and Chip's luggage and hopefully by the time they travel back down in the coming weeks the batteries and paint will be released from customs and ready and waiting for us in Ubatuba.

Stay tuned for updates on the redeployment in the near future. Great work team!

Force Wind Sea & Honor

Glider Analysis

Tuesday, May 20th, 2014

Now that we have 29 on the bench, its time for the analysis to begin.

First off, upon recovery, it was discovered that we had some minor growth on the hulls:

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Overall the growth was pretty minimal for a glider at sea for 188 days as there were a handful of small barnacles scattered over the hull- most likely attained during the 3 weeks spent in the shallows during the approach.

The main concern however is corrosion...

DSCN1828 DSCN1912 DSCN1924 DSCN1934

Although the hull of the glider is composed of carbon fiber, the ends are capped with aluminum rings. Three of the five rings on our global class glider (containing the extended battery bay) suffered from corrosion. The two rings attached to the payload bay however did not suffer the same fate.  It looks like these sections will have to be replaced before redeployment.

The pitch battery mount also is scraping as it moves fore and back causing metal filings to fall in the hull.

The team will continue to work on Challenger through the remainder of the week and spit ball ideas about how we can proceed.

Force Wind Sea & Honor

Getting Through Customs

Monday, May 19th, 2014

Good news everyone!

After a long day of preparing the work area for RU29's arrival and writing proposals for future work at the field station of the University of Sao Paulo, Scott and Chip called it a day and walked down to a small sushi place along the water.  On the way, they recieved an email from Marcelo: the glider had made it through customs!!

Tomorrow morning, Challenger will travel by truck from Santos where the customs facility is located to Ubatuba where Chip and Scott will get to work preparing her for redeployment weds/thurs of this week!  They will definitely have their work cut out for them over the next few days as they make the necessary repairs to prepare 29 for her longest trip yet, back to Cape Town.

photo by Chip Haldeman

photo by Chip Haldeman

Force Wind Sea & Honor

The Bear is in the Igloo

Sunday, May 18th, 2014

Congratulations team! RU29 has officially been recovered after completing the second leg of the South Atlantic Crossing!!


The recovery location

Approaching Alpha Delphini on the morning of May 18

Approaching Alpha Delphini on the morning of May 18

Alpha Delphini, RU29 and calm seas for recovery

Alpha Delphini, RU29 and calm seas for recovery

USP Professor Marcelo Dottori in the recovery Zodiac

USP Professor Marcelo Dottori in the recovery Zodiac

The worst of the biological growth

The worst of the biological growth

RU29 in the Zodiac with USP Zodiac operator alongside the Alpha Delphini

RU29 in the Zodiac with USP Zodiac operator alongside the Alpha Delphini

Captain (far left) and crew of the Alpha Delphini with RU29 on deck after the successful recovery

Captain (far left) and crew of the Alpha Delphini with RU29 on deck after the successful recovery


The South Atlantic Crossing

Again excellent work team and a special thanks to all of our partners that made this success possible.  Now on to customs.

Force Wind Sea & Honor

On location in Ubatuba

Saturday, May 17th, 2014

In preparation for the recovery early tomorrow morning, Scott and Chip took a trip out to the ship that will be used for the operation.  It is a larger ship than can dock in the area, so it gets parked close by and a zodiac is used to load.

view from the zodiac ride out to the USP RV Alpha Delphini

view from the zodiac ride out to the USP RV Alpha Delphini

Upon arriving at the boat, they took to the bridge to see where they would set up the equipment to communicate with the glider once on location.


View of the bridge aboard the Alpha Delphini

View of the bridge aboard the Alpha Delphini


View of the A-frame

View of the A-frame

Once on location, the plan will be to get the glider on a cart into the zodiac and then use the A-frame to transfer the glider from the zodiac to the aft deck.  Once on board, the team will then return to the shore lab, and the glider will be sailed south to Santos where it will be handed over to be inspected by customs on monday.  If it clears customs,  29 will be transported back to the shore lab by truck monday night (hopefully) or tuesday morning (more likely) where Scott and Chip will then get to work preparing her for the next leg.

Assessing the situation and getting the work done as quickly as possible is crucial as we need to leave the dock wednesday and try to get way offshore.  Running the numbers for distance vs battery life on the upcoming leg, there is not a lot of wiggle room.  Each day in shallow water looks to be equivalent to about 2.5 days in deep, so we need to minimize the amount of time spent in the shallows as much as possible.


Tomorrow will be an early morning for our team both in the field and providing shore support.  To them we wish good luck

Force Wind Sea & Honor

The Final Count Down

Thursday, May 15th, 2014



3 Days until recovery.  Our field team is in place in Ubatuba going over their plan for recovery.  Tripped up by our batteries not making it to Brazil on time, Marcelo has very graciously not only offered to give us the lithium batteries from his gliders in exchange for ours when they eventually arrive, but his team has brought their glider to Ubatuba so there is a full suite of spare parts available to us if there is any staggering damage done to our glider.  When having a glider at sea as long as 29 has been and expecting to redeploy within a mere few days for the glider's longest journey to date, collaboration with friends like this is absolutely crucial.

The waypoint has now been set in the direction of land and the plan going forward is to aim for the valley that lies ahead between the two hills reaching up to 70m as we try and avoid the shallower bathymetry along our final approach.

Force Wind Sea & Honor


Entering Station Keep Mode

Monday, May 12th, 2014


With less than 90km remaining between Challenger and Ubatuba, we have halted our steam and taken up post just outside the 100m isobath.  The bathymetry that lies ahead of us has a number of hills and valleys and without a working altimeter, we would prefer to stick to this spot than push on further for the moment.  The plan now is to do our best to hold this location by bouncing between a number of tightly knit waypoints as the week remaining before recovery dwindles down.

The shipping traffic density plots continue to appear to be in our favor for the larger ships. Unfortunately there is a decent amount of fishing in this area as Dr Brandini pointed out, so we are doing our best to avoid getting snagged in any equipment.



Within the next couple days, the way point will be put on shore once again and we will make our final approach towards Ubatuba.

Force Wind Sea & Honor




Crossing the Shelf Break

Thursday, May 8th, 2014



Our good friend Antonio has done it again, filling our inboxes with spectacular images crucial to the success of this mission.  After doing some digging on the MarineTraffic website, Antonio was able to create a density plot of shipping traffic in the area.  From this, we are able to see a relatively safe path from our latest location to the endzone. Amazingly, this almost matches up with the Endurance Line defined weeks earlier- a good sign for future glider missions.

Antonio also sent along the 4-D ocean state visualization cube Pinzon, featuring sea surface height which depicts an eddy solar system to our south along the shelf where a number of warm core eddies are circling a cold eddy.



With the recovery now slotted for the early hours of Sunday May 18, our team makes final preparations for the main event.  Scott and Chip will travel down to Brazil on the 14th where they will soon meet up with Marcelo Dottori at the field station in Ubatuba.  While they get themselves on their way, Challenger will be set to cross the shelf and head in towards shore. Depending on our progress, we may pick a spot to loiter to kill time, but the overarching goal is to get as far in shore as possible so there is not a whole lot of time spent on the boat.  We would rather reserve that time for servicing on shore.



Until then, we will head shore ward just to the north east of our proposed Brazilian endurance line.

Riding the 500

Monday, May 5th, 2014


According to MarineTraffic's ship tracking service, the South Brazil Bight is the place to be.  Over the past week or so now we have been monitoring the movement of ships around our brave glider and it has been a bit nerve racking to say the least.

Putting that nightmare aside, the results of the past week and a half of traversing eddies has produced something quite interesting:




Through the middle of that time period, lining up almost exactly where we were pushed to the south, there is a bulge of cold water rising from the depths.  The thermal structure of the water column certainly looks like that of a cold eddy, which would match more closely with what the MyOcean model showed throughout that time period.

Now that we are through that event, Challenger has made her way close to the shelf at about the 500m isobath.  From here, we will fly to the south parallel to the shelf for a few days before making our approach to shore.


Force Wind Sea & Honor