Seaglider monitors water from Arctic during record-breaking journey under ice

May 2nd, 2009 - 2:28 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, May 2 (ANI): The University of Washington (UW) has surpassed its 2-year-old world record for operating a glider under the ice, by successfully operating one of its seagliders for six months as it made round trips hundreds of miles in length to monitor water under the ice at Davis Strait.

The result contributes to the longest continuous measurement of fresh water exiting the Arctic through the Canadian Arctic Archipelago and Davis Strait and into the Labrador Sea.

Seagliders developed by the UW School of Oceanography and Applied Physics Laboratory are small, reusable underwater vehicles meant to operate on their own, gliding without propellers from the surface to as deep as 1,000 meters, or 3,300 feet, while collecting such information as temperature, salinity and level of dissolved oxygen.

When seagliders are at the ocean surface, they can be commanded remotely from nearly anywhere in the world via the Internet and can transmit their data via satellite telephone.

Unlike faster-moving propeller-driven autonomous underwater vehicles, which may need to be retrieved by ships only days after being deployed, UW seagliders can operate on their own for months at a time.

The ability to do so under ice, developed by Lee’s group, is important in a place such as Davis Strait where scientists want to measure how much fresh water flows through the strait and at what times of year so they have a baseline for comparison in coming years.

“This cutting-edge technology has the potential to make year-round measurements over broad areas where access by other means is severely limited, due to the presence of sea ice for part or all of the year,” according to Martin Jeffries, the foundation’s Arctic Observing Network program director.

In the latest deployment, two Applied Physics Laboratory seagliders went into the water on September 5.

They relied on five sound sources in Davis Strait to figure out where they were and navigate once under the ice.

One operated for 25 weeks, spending 51 days and traveling more than 450 miles under the ice, before being collected on February 26 by the Danish Navy.

During under-ice operations, the glider periodically sought small openings in the ice cover and succeeded in surfacing 10 times to transmit data. It made two round trips under the ice of about 230 miles each. (ANI)

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