Monday, March 12, 2007

Glider Mission 100 - Day 1

Today we go to sea.

People around the lab kept asking why I was so excited. Its because today we go to sea to start something that is very new.

We are heading out into one of my favorite locations, the Mid-Atlantic Bight. Its right in our own backyard, but still, every time we head out, we learn something new. Every voyage is still a voyage of discovery.

We'll be out there for about a month, at least in spirit. In reality, we do this without ever leaving the dock. Instead we send out underwater robots. We call them Gliders. They fly beneath the ocean surface for weeks at a time, surfacing to phone home every 6 hours or so. Ours are built by Webb Research in Falmouth, Mass.

Doug Webb came to Tuckerton, NJ back in 1999 and flew the first open ocean mission of a Slocum glider with us. Now we operate our own fleet of gliders, we fly them all over the world, and since 2003, we have maintained a cross-shelf Endurance Line that runs offshore from that same initial deployment location in Tuckerton. Tomorrow morning we start our 100th Glider mission. To celebrate this event, we'll be flying the first alongshelf Endurance line. We'll leave from UMass Dartmouth aboard their vessel the Lucky Lady about 6 am tomorrow morning. We plan to fly from UMass to Rutgers, zig-zagging back and forth across the continental shelf as we head south.

A second milestone we will be celebrating this week is the completion of the Mid-Atlantic CODAR Network for surface current mapping. We deployed our first CODAR in 1998. The success lead to grand plans and a concept diagram on Fred Grassle's napkin at the Triumph Brewery in Princeton. By the end of this week, working with our many friends throughout the Mid-Atlantic, over 30 CODARs will be operating providing coverage from Cape Cod to Cape Hatteras. The map from the website shows the present offshore coverage. Three more long-range sites will be installed this week - the UMass site at Nauset and the Rutgers sites at Nantucket and Block Island - and we'll extend the coverage north to Cape Cod, completing the array.

A third milestone this week will be the first use of the newly renovated Coastal Ocean Observation Lab's operations center, or COOLroom, as oceanographer/filmmaker Randy Olson named it. When you walk into the COOLroom, you can immediately be at sea anywhere in the world. Just like the Hank Stommel's 1989 science fiction story on the Slocum mission. Here Fred Grassle takes the observatory controls on its first day of operations after the renovations.

On Wednesday, we will fly up to UMass, and give a talk that celebrates our collective achievement in the Mid-Atlantic. A lot of people contributed to this along the way, and there are way too many to thank here. Instead, we'd like to dedicate this flight to Fred Grassle. Fred's vision has touched all of our lives. By thanking Fred, we thank the person that has brought us all together.

Thanks Fred,


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