Archive for the ‘Atlantic Crossing’ Category

A New Roadmap from Spain

Monday, November 16th, 2009

Ever since Scarlet entered Spanish waters, she has been fighting with a strong current to the south.  Our usual geostrophic current maps derived from the satellite altimeter have not been of any help.  The currents calculated from space are not agreeing with what Scarlet sees on the ground.  Especially worrisome this morning was the strong current to the southwest running at 22 cm/sec.  This is something we cannot fly against, so we have to turn sideways to it, and find more favorable currents.  But which way to turn?  Should we run perpedicular to this flow to the SE and try to get closer to shore? Or should we try to the NW?  Guidance from our usual source, the geostrophic currents, can't be trusted.


That means we must turn to the models, where all the forcing is included.  Just minutes ago Antonio sent me this result from the model runs he is looking at.  We find Scarlet is on the western edge of a strong jet up to 0.6 knots in speed that is heading to the southwest.  The current is too broad to cross without being swept back out to sea.  Our best alternative is to favor the NW route, even though it seems like we are turning back away from Spain.


Below we zoom into the location of Scarlet at the edge of the jet.  We'll start this turn by heading more to the north at the 11 am surfacing.  



Saturday, November 14th, 2009

Scarlet completed the 11 am surfacing, took Antonio's waypoint from Tina in Antarctica, and headed off to the northeast. She is now 6 kilometers inside the Spanish Exclusive Economic Zone, otherwise known as the EEZ.  Currents are still strong but the direction continues to rotate counterclockwise - a good sign.  We hope this trend continues.  In the image below, the thin yellow arc now to our west is the offshore side of the Spanish EEZ.  The thin yellow line to our south is the border between the Spanish EEZ and the Portuguese EEZ.  The thin rectangles in the upper right hand corner are the shipping lanes.  Our mission now is to position Scarlet in a safe place for recovery.  The U.S. recovery team leaves New Jersey on Monday, November 30, and meets our Spanish counterparts in Vigo on December 1.


Antonio in the Canaries has won the competition for the first reported communication with Scarlet inside Spanish waters.  But the science team at Palmer Station in Antarctica wins the competition for the first reported celebration in honor of the crossing.  After Tina transferred Antonio's waypoint to Scarlet and sent her on her way, she led the science team in a traditional Polar Plunge into the near zero degree centigrade waters of the Antarctic Ocean.  I know the water is near zero degrees because I checked the temperature being reported by RU25.

Scientist #1 (Tina) into the water:


Scientist #2:


And Scientist #3:


After the plunge, the traditional warm up in the hot tub.  Hats off to the Palmer Science Team for their game winning entry.


Honour All

Saturday, November 14th, 2009

That's how Antonio ended his morning email today. He was the first to see Scarlet cross over the line. Now he has the honor of making Scarlet's first waypoint change in Spanish waters.  As we get closer and closer to Spain, we will rely more and more on local knowledge.  Antonio has asked us to maintain a course to the northeast to compensate for the currents to the southeast.    Because ocean current speeds are nearly matched to Scarlet's own speed through the water, this will result in an eastward path over the ground for Scarlet.  Antonio and I continue watching the forecasts and altimetry products for guidance on current patterns.  The geostrophic currents from the satellite altimeter data we normally use tell us the current should have already turned to the northeast.  Clearly this is not the case.  This morning, Antonio sees that the products on his side have placed that northeast current some nautical miles still to our east.  We'll head towards that current with Antonio's waypoint for the 11 am surfacing.  Tina made the change to Scarlet's course from Palmer Station in Antarctica.


Checking the rest of the fleet, Teledyne's Drake continues on its climate change mission, maintaining the 26.5 N section.  The agreement between the geostrophic surface currents from the altimeter and the depth average currents from Drake continues to amaze us.  The satellites say Drake just entered a southward flowing current, and thats what Drake is reporting.


Back to the Middle Atlantic Bight, the coastal glider fleet (Rutgers & U. Delaware) is emerging from the trailing edge of Tropical Storm Ida.  The front between clear weather and clouds is passing right over New Jersey.  The rain has stopped, and people are out assessing the storm damage. Follow the Middle Atlantic Bight Blog at  for most recent updates.


Moving way south to the Antarctic continent, Tina and Alex deployed RU25 this week from Palmer Station. Follow along on the Antarctic blog at



Saturday, November 14th, 2009

Today we begin a new era of global ocean exploration. The Scarlet Knight has crossed the Altantic.


Scarlet surfaced inside Spanish waters on Saturday, November 14, 2009 at 8:17 GMT (3:17 am EST).


To our friends in Spain and Portugal, we look forward to seeing you in December for the recovery.


To our families back home, 201 days ago on April 27, we launched Scarlet and dedicated this mission to you. Thanks for understanding.


To our many partners on both sides of the Atlantic that made this possible, this has been a team effort that began over a decade ago.  It is success story shared by all. 

Thanks to all,

The R.U. COOL Team

2 Kilometers To Go

Friday, November 13th, 2009

As we discussed in the last blog, our time for crossing into Spanish waters would depend on the currents. If the currents turned to the east, we would make it across at tonights 7 pm surfacing.  If the currents turned to the south, we would have to wait for tomorrow morning.  Currents turned to the south, and remain strong at 15 cm/sec.  We were 6 kilometers from the line. We only flew 4 kilometers.  That leaves us 2 kilometers shy of the Spanish Exclusive Economic Zone (thin yellow arc). We have flown 7279 kilometers in 200 days.  We have one more 8-hour segment to go. What will 3 am bring us?


200 Days at Sea. 6 Kilometers to go.

Friday, November 13th, 2009

At 11 am this morning local time, Scarlet surfaced and reported currents to the SE at 15 cm/sec.  So the current speed is still high, but they have rotated around counterclockwise, starting at South and switching to southeast.  If this rotation trend continues, it will align the currents more with the geostrophic currents, and it will push us closer to the Spanish EEZ.  Our glider heading was maintained at NE.


Looking at the big clock, today is our 200th day at sea.  We have flown 7,275 kilometers. For flight distance remaining, we have measured it several times, and have discovered that precise distance measurement is not a strength of google earth.  Our best estimate is that we are just under 6 km from the edge of the Spanish Exculsive Economic Zone marked by the thin yellow arcs.  Our last segment covered a distance of 6.5 km.  We expect to be very close to Spanish waters at the 7 pm surfacing.  If the current rotates more towards the east, we cross.  If the current rotates more to the south, we'll be a few kilometers shy, and the crossing will occur at the 3 am surfacing. Either way, I bet we are watching.

12 kilometers and an unexpected current

Friday, November 13th, 2009

Just a short blog - wanted to get this over to Antonio in the Canaries right away. Looks like we all will be pouring over our guidance maps today.  Scarlet just reported a strong current 0f 13 cm/sec to the Southeast, almost exactly opposite to what we see in the geostrophic currents from the satellite altimeter.  Strong winds?  Inertial waves? Looks like Antonio and I will be generating a little email traffic in preparation for the 11 am surfacing.  This new current slowed progress to the east a bit.  We only covered about 4 kilometers, bringing us to within 12 kilometers of the Spanish EEZ as of 3 am (eastern standard time) today.



16 Kilometers & The Coolest 20 Years

Thursday, November 12th, 2009

Gliders on both sides of the Atlantic are getting hammered by storms tonight.  But thats ok.  They are underwater gliders.  They can handle it. They are what we'll use to explore some of the most extreme environments on the planet.


Zooming into the East Coast of the U.S., we get ready to close out the intense Mid Atlantic fall sampling season with the remnants of Hurricane Ida.  White is clouds, green is rain.  An amazing storm. Flooding along much of the east coast today on TV.


Look below the clouds and see one of the most amazing sights on the planet.  A full scale regional coastal observatory running full bore through the storm.  Satellites grabbed the initial sea surface tmeperature condition pre-storm. The full CODAR network was ready for this one, and the undergrads put it into google earth for the old guys like me to use.  The gliders had an amazaing fall.  First the 4-glider joint IOOS, Navy, ONR, NSF survey timed to the NOAA fisheries survey for the NOAA Fate program.  Then the NSF OOI CI IO OSSI (I love that acronym). I lost track of how many AUVs and gliders were in the water, all being directed by the CyberInfrastructure software pulling data from the MARCOOS forecast models. Followed by this week's combined NSF OOI and DHS Center of Excellence field test.  We had more satellites looking at the Mid Atlantic through that high pressure at the beginning of the week than every before.   Now we end with a severe storm with the hottest set of optics gliders ever deployed.  The grad students were drooling over the storm sediment transport data this morning, pulling off page after page of their next thesis chapter.  On monday we'll start assembling it for the optics folks meeting down at Stennis right after Thanksgiving - Steve & Joan should get a kick out of it.  Its been 20 years to go from vision to implementation. An amazing journey.


Speaking of 20 years, its been 20 years since Hank Stommel's article on the Slocum mission appeared in Oceanography.  Now Drake is holding the line on climate change.  Doug Webb has brought these gliders from vision to fruition in that time, and we hope he is also looking back at the last 20 years as an amazing journey.


Speaking of amazing journeys, Scarlet is now just over 16 kilometers from the Spanish EEZ. Currents have dropped down to about 6 cm/sec, so we only made about 6 kilometers distance during the last 8 hour segment.  We'll continue heading northeast.  It could be a very different blog this time tomorrow night.


Zooming out we see Galicia. We are trying to ride the currents to the east a bit towards shore, then think about turning north into the yellow circle to avoid the most intense vessel traffic.  It looks like there was some interest from the local newspapers today.



Another sign we must be getting close. Instead of a map, tonight Antonio sent us a picture for good luck.  It is "The Guardian of the Bight". In the center is Breogan, the first Celtic Galegian King, a sailor and adventurer.  To the left is The Hercules Tower, built by the Romans in the 2nd century as a light house that is still in use today. As Antonio said, to the right is the sea, and The Scarlet Knight.


Below is the Investigador, the buoy tender used by Puertos del Estado.  She is 47 m long.  Crane, A-frame and Zodiac.  All things that make a glider recovery team happy.






23 kilometers

Thursday, November 12th, 2009

Antonio sent in a series of images this morning based on the model currents. In those images we see that current flowing south along 13 W as the main feature in front of us.


Guidance from U. Colorado from the satellite altimeters similarly has that current flowing to the south along 13 W.   Altimetry also says there is a strong current to the east just inside that green zone on the chart below.  We want to head towards the northern edge of that eastward current.  That approach would allow us to jump into the counterclockwise rotating eddy marked by the yellow circle.    As planned, we moved the waypoint 15 minutes to the north.  This moved our heading from 60 degrees to 45 degrees.  We are heading NE as planned.   Scarlet just surfaced right at the western edge of a jet to the northeast that we see in the altimetry.  In fact, she is directly beneath one of the arrows on the map.  We hope to follow this current into the Spanish EEZ.  We are about 23 kilometers  directly offshore of the Spanish EEZ.  The distance along our heading of 45 degrees is 27 km.  Scarlet just flew about 6.5 km during the last 8 hour segment. If this continues we should be within a couple kilometers of the Spanish EEZ  tomorrow at the 11 am surfacing.  That makes the most likely crossing point the 7 pm surfacing (U.S. east coast time) on Friday.  Looks like my students will need to show up for class tomorrow at 11 am.  We'll continue to refine the estimate every 8 hours with each surfacing.


29 Kilometers

Thursday, November 12th, 2009

Our friends at Puertos del Estado are doing an amazing job preparing for Scarlet's arrival in Spain.  Our partners there, and the many critical oceanographic measurements they maintain and make available on their website, made Spain the natural choice for landfall on this trans-Atlantic mission.



Checking in on Scarlet first, we see she is now 29 km offshore of the Spanish EEZ.  The morning currents are to the southeast.  The wobble we see between northeast and southeast currents  is characteristic of an easterly current with inertial waves superimposed.  Inertial waves usually are an indication of an abrupt change in the windfield, often due to a storm.  The inertial waves spin in a horizontal circle and often persist well after the storm has passed.


Checking the google earth clouds (white) and weather radar (green), we see a storm slamming into the U.K., and a line of clouds that trails off across the northwest tip of Spain.


Checking the ship observations and surface pressure field, strong winds are heading at the northwest tip of Spain.


Checking the wave forecast, we see the strongest waves are offshore and to the northwest of Spain.


Checking into the Puertos website, we see the wave heights are still low for Spain, running 2-3 m, well below the 8 m high waves we experienced over the weekend.  Amazing how your perspective changes.  We are looking at 2-3 m waves and thinking the weather is good.  Puertos has warned us to expect severe weather.  We hear that out on the recovery vessel, the weather will either be bad or awful.  Its the first time we are hoping for bad weather.