Tuesday, March 18, 2008

RU15 on ICOOL Mission #001

At 6:30 am on a Tuesday morning exactly 1 year ago, the RV Lucky Lady left the New Bedford docks with RU16 on board. RU16 is one of our underwater robots, a Slocum Glider, built by Webb Research in Falmouth. It was our 100th Glider mission, and to celebrate, we decided we would attempt the first underwater flight from Massachusetts to New Jersey. With UMass Dartmouth, we deployed RU16 just offshore New Bedford on March 13, 2007, and recovered it in Tuckerton, NJ on April 6, 2007.

Since then we've repeated the MA to NJ flight 5 times. We also sent two gliders south from Tuckerton on interstate trips to Rudy Inlet by Virginia Beach that were picked up by UNC, ODU and UMaryland.

With a year of confidence building behind us, Hugh Roarty decided we were ready for a greater challenge. This time our goal was to fly underwater from New Jersey to Canada. This time our robot would be RU15, the first Slocum Glider equipped with the new "Digi-fin" tail fin, a more rugged assembly designed for longer duration flights.

But beyond the distance, the challenge with this flight is that a straight shot along the coast to Canada is against the current (5 cm/sec to the south as our friend Bill Boicourt recently reminded us at that Italian restaurant in Baltimore). So we chose a different route. To get to Canada from NJ, we will first fly across the continental shelf, cross the dangerous shelf break, then fly across the slope sea and into the Gulf Stream. The Stream will whip us to the east, where eventually we will jump out and ride a warm core ring back to the shelf break off Canada. We'll use our remaining battery life to re-cross the continental shelf up north.

We'll conduct this mission as part of I-COOL, the International Coallition of Ocean Observing Laboratories. We formed I-COOL in Paris in 2005 at a sidewalk cafe with John Cullen from Dalhousie. Our hope is to get this glider at least up to John's office in Halifax, snap a picture, and then repeat as needed.

We kept track of Glider Mission 100 on this blog site. We'll do the same with this I-COOL mission. But we have a little catching up to do. We launched on March 7, 2008, crossed the shelf break danger zone for the first time, survived a storm with 25 foot seas, and caught an extreme Gulf Stream meander crest that is still growing. Right now we are running with the Stream heading southeast into a meander trough that we hope starts to whip us back around to the northeast overnight and into tomorrow. So the next several entries will likely alternate between what we are doing now as we continue on this underwater flight to Canada, and what we did to get us here.

But before signing off for the night on this first entry, we need to add the traditional dedication. For Glider Flight 100, we honored our past. That flight we dedicated to Fred Grassle, our Institute's first Director and the person who brought us all together. For I-COOL Mission #001, we honor our future. We dedicate this flight to our students, 15 years of them to be exact. Through the years they have sustained us, and many times have taught us just as much as we were supposed to be teaching them. We hope they will find this flight as inspirational as we do, and that the thrill of discovery, combined with the personal rewards of teaching others, will sustain them in the challenges they face in a changing world.

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