Well, we are back! After 27's successful Trans-Atlantic Crossing in 2009, we are now going to attempt to go north to south across the Atlantic departing soon from Reykjavik, Iceland and going to the Canary Islands via the Azores. This mission will be a collaborative effort between Rutgers and PLOCAN (Canary Islands Oceanic Platform) to pilot a Slocum Glider while collecting Salinity, Temperature and Depth along the treacherous journey. 27's mission took 221 days, or a little over 7 months to go the 7,389 km from New Jersey to Spain. Silbo, the glider that will be used for this voyage, will have to go an estimated 4,000. Although a shorter distance, Silbo will be faced with a number of challenges including having to go from the frigid waters near the arctic to the balmy waters of the tropics, fighting currents during most of journey, dodging the traffic over very popular fishing and shipping lanes, and of course trying to avoid the biology the best we can.
Over the second half of this past spring semester, the Atlantic Crossings class taught by Professors Scott Glenn, Oscar Schofield and Josh Kohut spent their time doing reconnaissance work on the conditions we are to explore. Silbo will be starting his mission before the end of this month, Leaving Reykjavik, Iceland and going south towards the Azores and finally heading to the Canaries.
Within a week, Silbo (a Slocum Glider), will be deployed off the coast of Iceland and start its journey towards the Canary Islands. Average temperatures in Iceland are anywhere from 0-11°C. The current five day forecast is rather stabile, minor fluctuations of temperatures from 9-13°C (48-55°F) with scattered periods of clouds, a good sign that we won’t be in for any surprises. Although there could be trouble down the road; the east coast of the United States is predicted to have a series of thunderstorms on the way. As a result of Iceland being in a low pressure area and knowing that gyres move in a clockwise pattern, that means the storm may eventually arrive in Icelandic waters. Just as storms altered the course of RU27, this storm could also batter Silbo around, or even possibly delay her deployment, but as of right now Iceland has no heavy cloud cover overhead.
The density range specified for the glider is +/- 4 km/m3. In order to see if this would be possible with the Iceland to Canaries track, density calculations were made for 4 different sites along this track. All of these locations were found to have differences within the specified range, meaning that the glider should be good to go. (Chris, Abe, Dakota)
Another concern that we always have when we put a glider in the water is the possibility of being struck by something. From where we are leaving out of Iceland, a major concern we had was possibly running into sea ice/ice bergs. However, due to the summer heat, the ice has receded far from where Silbo's path will take it, thus reducing this risk quite a bit
We are also very concerned with the possibility of being struck by any ships in the area. Taking a blow from the hull of a ship will mean game over for Silbo, so we will need to keep a close eye on where ship traffic is heaviest (Emily, Dave, Mario, and Drew)
The battery life of this glider was taken into serious consideration because of the obstacles to overcome along the way. Silbo will be hit with several currents that will test the battery life of the glider. The first of these currents is the North Atlantic Drift located off the southern coast of Iceland, which is said to be “sluggish” and not categorized as a stream-like current. (Dan)
The North Atlantic Current will come next which travels Northeast, the exact opposite of the track the glider will be trying to fly in. Fighting these currents could use up battery life more so than currents seen with RU27. RU27 was helped out by the flow of the Gulf Stream, in the Iceland to Canaries flight we will be flying against these currents.
The last current we will encounter along this journey is the Portugal Current system located off the coast of Portugal. This current flows south towards Portugal, a direction we will not want to fly in considering the high boating traffic in this region. (Shannon Jess and Kat)
Another battery-killing obstacle will be the changes in water temperature the Silbo flight will see, another new obstacle not seen in RU27’s flight. The temperatures at the beginning of the mission around Iceland are cold, which run down battery life more so than flying in warm waters. Because of this initial battery loss, we will be trying to fly into warm waters as soon as possible. (Dan)
We will be faced with the same biological obstacles as 27’s flight such as remoras, gooseneck barnacles, sharks and whales. Silbo was not coated with any chemicals to ward off animals so barnacles and remoras could still try to attach themselves to the glider and nothing can be done about sharks and whales trying to eat or play with the glider. (Bill and Kristin)
The students that will be involved with Silbo's mission are Lindsay, Oliver, and Nilsen from Rutgers, and Ruben Marrero Gomez and Juan Alberto Gonzalez Santana from the Canaries. Lindsay is an intern at Rutgers University this summer from NC State University majoring in Biological Oceanography. Oliver is a sophmore studying marine science at Rutgers. Nilsen has been involved with the COOL Room for 4 years now and is going into his 5th year finishing up his BS in Biological Oceanography.
Lindsay, Oliver, and Nilsen
Tags: Nilsen Strandskov