5 Months at Sea
RU17, named The Scarlet Knight for good luck, has now spent 5 months at sea, traveling 5600 km in the process. We started these student missions with the Flight to Halifax (also one of our blog sites) back on March 7, 2008. Backed up by a world-class ocean observatory, the students ranged from Seniors to Freshman. Some have graduated and are on to jobs with NOAA or graduate school, and the Freshman that started with us are now the Sophomores steering us from eddy to eddy to the Azores. The plot below shows how RU17 is crossing the vast abyssal plain of the Atlantic and is approaching the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. The Azores is on the ridge, with Flores, our target island, on the western side. This morning we are 450 km from Flores.
Zooming in on the track and the satellite Sea Surface Temperature image, we are running parallel to a front that lies to our southwest. Our objective has been to stay north of this front as we crossed between the two cold eddies.
Current speeds are oscillating but with in increasing trend, and are to the east or southeast, consistent with RU17 being on the southern side of the northern cold eddy.
Below is the satellite altimetry showing RU17 flying between the two cold eddies, staying closer to the northern eddy. The really good news is the two warm eddies that lie to our east between 34 W and 32 W. On Sunday, these two eddies were strongly interacting, and had formed a wall that RU17 would have to go around. On monday they started pulling apart, and today, they look like distinct warm eddies. It gives us a clear path to Flores. We head southeast and pick up a push from the southern warm eddy. Students will make the change after class this morning.