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Robotic underwater Seagliders used by the Oban-based Scottish Association for Marine Science have now gathered the equivalent of five years of oceanographic data, most of which was collected in the past 18 months.

This milestone, which was reached today, highlights a major change in how marine scientists collect information such as sea temperature, salinity, pressure and oxygen, as the six-feet-long Seagliders can spend months at sea collecting data that contributes to our understanding of climate change.

To date, the seven SAMS Seagliders have spent the equivalent of five years at sea, travelling more than 33,000 kilometres. One of the Seagliders, Ardbeg, has this week broken a SAMS distance record by completing a return trip of more than 3,400km along the Extended Ellett Line, a route from Scotland to Iceland that has been surveyed by scientists for 40 years.

Dr Stefan Gary, a research associate in physical oceanography at SAMS, said: “Seagliders allow oceanographers to make cost-effective, long-term, and long-distance observations, often in hard-to-access regions that ships rarely frequent and other ocean robots rarely go.

“Because of their durability we often deploy them in the winter, as they have been known to withstand extreme storm-force conditions.

“Seagliders also allow for very dense sampling of the ocean, collecting a profile every three kilometres, while a survey vessel usually samples every 10 to 30 kilometres.”

Seagliders collect data down to 1,000m as they slowly submerge towards the seabed and then rise to the surface, using fixed wings and a hydrodynamic shape to create a forward movement. To submerge, a battery-powered pump moves oil into a pressurised container, increasing the density of the glider in the water and causing it to sink. To bring the glider to the surface, oil is pumped back into a bladder to increase buoyancy. Live data is sent by the gliders via satellite to the pilots at SAMS, who can control and re-direct them remotely in near real-time.

SAMS owns two Seagliders – purchased in 2009 and 2011 – and has operated another five from the Natural Environment Research Council’s (NERC) Marine Autonomous and Robotic Systems (MARS) instrument pool since April 2014. SAMS, which is ideally situated for deep-sea Atlantic research, runs the Scottish Marine Robotics Facility, a command and control centre for Seaglider operations.

Currently, the SAMS Seagliders are contributing to three major NERC-funded projects: the Extended Ellett Line, a time series monitoring the evolution of the waters flowing between Scotland and Iceland; the FASTNEt project, looking at physical exchange processes between the deep ocean and shelf seas; and the international OSNAP project, which will monitor the oceanographic circulation across the subpolar North Atlantic until 2018. Scientists across Europe are working together towards maximising the gliders’ potential in terms of data quality, quantity, accessibility and cost effectiveness through projects such as AtlantOS or as part of the glider community group EGO.

In addition to collecting large quantities of new data, the SAMS Seaglider programmes have had a pivotal role in the training of several early career scientists and technicians. This focus on the next generation of researchers complements the new NERC initiative for a smart and autonomous observation Centre for Doctoral Training, which may lead to future opportunities.

A submarine cable was installad recently in Ireland connecting the Galway Bay Ocean Energy Test Site and to the shore. The cable will supply power to the site and allow unlimited data transfer from the site for researchers testing innovative marine technology including renewable ocean energy devices.  There is a nice video showing the process at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yxv0UoXfs58

The ROPOS remotely operated subsea vehicle (ROV) operated by the Canadian Scientific Submersible Facility (CSSF) has successfully completed the installation of the US Regional Scale Nodes (RSN) Cabled Observatory, located off the coast of Washington and Oregon. The RSN is funded by the US National Science Foundation as part of the Ocean Observatories Initiative. The cabled observatory will provide interactive real-time data from the sea floor and throughout the water column with state-of-the-art moorings that reach nearly 2900 m above the seafloor. Data flowing from this system will dramatically increase students, researchers, and policy-makers discovery and understanding of oceanic behavior.

This year’s 83-day deployment aboard the RV Thomas G. Thompson saw the installation and testing of secondary infrastructure including installation of over 30,000 lbs of equipment on the sea-floor, and 15,701 metres of cable laid and tested by the ROPOS’ Remotely Operated Cable Laying System (ROCLS), and ~ 140 diverse instruments (>98% of which are now sending data to shore).

With extension cables, junction boxes, instruments, and deep/shallow profiler moorings operational, the observatory the observatory will very soon be providing data for the scientific community.

“The efficiency of this year’s operations were unparalleled”, said Keith Shepherd, General Manager of the Canadian Scientific Submersible Facility, “We had a 97.8% up-time, which enabled us to complete over 650 hours of dives, and get all of the installations completed in a tight window. Seeing the first successful data transmission from the seafloor to the shore was a momentous event that UW’s Chief Scientist, Dr. John Delaney, had been waiting almost 20 years to see.”

The full installation of the Observatory is a testament to the successful collaboration between the University of Washington and the Canadian Scientific Submersible Facility, which has spanned almost 4 years on this project. Nine hundred kilometeres of electro-optical telecommunications cable installed in 2011 and 7 primary nodes deployed in 2012 provide real-time two-way communication to the Internet via extension cables, which total >56 km in length.

CSSF is a Canadian federally registered, not-for-profit corporation which provides subsea ROV, engineering, and cable deployment services through its ROPOS (Remotely Operated Platform for Ocean Science) ROV. In operation since 1995, CSSF and the ROPOS team have become globally recognized for their expertise and reliability while servicing clients around the world. More information on ROPOS, its team, and CSSF can be found at: www.ropos.com.

Contact: Ashley Thomson This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. +1 250-655-5096 x100 Canadian Scientific Submersible Facility 110-9865

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