Gliders gliders everywhere!!!
It's been crazy busy working in the glider lab getting 5 gliders refurbished, tested, prepped and ready for deployment! Two of those gliders will specifically be used for our research project off the west coast of Australia. Let us give you a little more info about the 2 different types of gliders we're working with!
Gliders are not only much more efficient in many ways, but are literally changing the type of data we can get about our oceans. Gliders can sample 24/7 along their track (or "transect"), which provides HIGH-DEFINITION, HIGH-DENSITY DATA. It's filling in all the gaps that previous technologies, such as vessels and moorings, couldn't achieve before. That means no more guessing. Just hard evidence. It's literally a miracle for ocean science.
Anyway - we digress. Where were we?...talking about the Slocum vs Seagliders. So now that you have a better idea as to the importance of gliders to ocean science: as you can see, while they both operate under the same principle of a buoyancy engine, they both look quite different. And they are. While some of their internal components are very similar, others a very different. However, they can both carry essentially the same science sensors and both have the some functional goal in mind: GET OCEANOGRAPHIC DATA.
So when it comes to gathering new data, the sensors are the same, and one could effectively interchange the vehicle (glider) upon which the sensors are carried on. But as aforementioned, the variances in the two gliders are enough for one to be preferable over the other to different users and groups.
Luckily, we don't even have to choose here at the Oceans Institute of the University of Western Australia! They operate BOTH Slocums AND Seagliders here! Which is awesome for us, because we can continue working with Slocums as we have been at Rutgers, and along the way see the variances in how UWA operates their Slocums, as well as learn how to tech and operate Seagliders!
Last week, we refurbished and prepped a Slocum, U209, for a deployment off the coast of Mindarie, Australia, about 45 minutes north of UWA/Perth. We headed out with Dennis (UWA's head glider technician...see picture below!) before sunrise on a local dive boat with a very friendly captain! Remember when we said we'd be sure to take some photos during the deployment? Well we did, but not as many as we had hoped to. To put it gently, the sea was rather restless that day There was about a 3-5 foot swell and LOTS of wind chop, so it didn't make for the best picture-taking day. I (Shannon) quickly became best friends with the bench with seasickness, and after a while of testing U209 staring at the computer screen, the wind chop got to me (Dave) a bit too and had to take my eyes off the computer for a little while too. But it's okay - it's all in the name of ocean science! However, despite the less-than-stellar conditions, the deployment was successful! And that's one of the reasons it's much better to have a glider out sampling rather than a human on a boat: humans get seasick, gliders/robots don't! Also, with seas much worse than what we went out in, we wouldn't be able to go out to sample the ocean. The safety of the scientists is paramount. However, gliders can stay out in the harshest of conditions, such as hurricanes. And these harsh conditions tend to be times that humans have never sampled before due to safety reasons - this, again, means NEW DATA.
We've mostly been working technically with the Seagliders so far, so that once we get into the operation and piloting we'll have a better idea of the internal workings of the Seagliders and know exactly what we are controlling. As you can imagine, technically working with robotics' internal components is difficult and time consuming. Our experience working with Slocums is helping a lot with diminishing the learning curve with Seagliders, but of course it's quite different.
We went to Fremantle ("Freo" for short) last weekend, which is a small historic port town just south of Perth. It was a cool little town! We got to take a tour inside an Australian military submarine!
Other than seeing Fremantle and going to the beach, we haven't had too much time to venture out much since we've been so busy in the glider lab! But we have some fun things planned, including a hike or two (called "bushwalks" here!), a couple trips to Rottnest Island ("Rotto" for short) about 10 miles off the coast of Cottesloe Beach (where we're living), and a couple other things too! And don't forget we're spending a week in Cairns at the end of our trip on the east coast of Australia to scuba dive the Great Barrier Reef! !
That's all for now. Within the next couple posts, I'll get into more detail about our research project and exactly what we're going to studying about the Indian Ocean! Thanks for reading everyone! G'day mates!