Underwater gliders trace everything
Ocean scientists can now plunge into the middle of the sea without leaving their offices.Updated: Feb 23, 2006 12:01 IST
Ocean scientists can now plunge into the middle of the sea without leaving their offices. The six-foot, 100-pound underwater gliders are swimming the oceans of the world and dutifully sending data home on everything from whale calls to the massive waves produced by hurricanes.
“The ability to be in the ocean all the time and do it over a sustained period – people are doing it now. And this is revolutionary,” aid Oscar Schofield, professor at the Institute of Marine and Coastal Science at Rutgers University.
The gliders suck in and shoot out water to change their buoyancy and move up and down. Small wings on their missile-like bodies create lift to move horizontally. Without a noisy propeller or engine, the gliders run silently and on very little power.
A small battery pack can keep them gathering information 24 hours a day on monthlong missions. They can also be programmed to surface and send data to land-based labs via satellite.
In October, scientists on the North Carolina coastline used a glider called Pelagia, from the Greek word for ‘open ocean’, to gather data on physical and biological changes beneath the waves a few miles off Wrightsville Beach.
Relatively light, easy to deploy and inexpensive, the gliders are not subject to violent surface conditions and have the ability to meander among sea creatures and ply the oceans in any weather, including hurricanes.
First Published: Feb 23, 2006 12:01 IST