Google Earth image shows the journey of the Challenger glider from Fremantle, WA to the equator


Challenger glider crosses equator on record journey

The underwater glider ‘Challenger’ is on a journey from Fremantle, Western Australia, to Galle, Sri Lanka. It departed Australia on 5 November and has reached the Equator.

This ocean glider mission is a joint project between Rutgers University in the USA and The University of Western Australia (UWA) which operates the IMOS Ocean glider Facility. The mission aims to cover a distance of 6,200 km and, if successful, will set a new world record for distance covered by an ocean glider in a single journey. To date it has covered over 5,400 km and spent 210 days in the water.

Challenger has reached an oceanographic mooring at the equator at 90oE that has been deployed as part of the Research Array for African-Asian-Australian Monsoon Analysis and Prediction (RAMA).  The glider spent a few days in the vicinity of the mooring undertaking rapid vertical profiles with the aim of capturing the variability in the diurnal cycle.

UWA’s Professor Chari Pattiaratchi, who is the leader of the IMOS Ocean gliders facility, is pleased with the progress of Challenger to date.

“This is a remarkable journey for a remote controlled vessel which doesn’t even have its own powered propulsion system.

“By controlling the glider’s direction and buoyancy and understanding the currents, we have been able to direct it to exactly the point in the Indian Ocean we needed it to go,” said Professor Pattiaratchi.

Challenger is now travelling west along the equator. It completed a period of station keeping mode undertaking vertical profiles to 500 metres, sampling continuously (in the normal mode only one transect per day was being collected to conserve power).

The aim of this sampling is to validate the temperature and salinity sensors with the RAMA mooring sensors.

Challenger will head west along the equator to another RAMA mooring at 80.5oE and then head north to Sri Lanka. The challenger project team expects the glider to be recovered off Sri Lanka in mid-September.

On its way to Sri Lanka, Challenger is sending data back to the lab via satellite. Its position can be tracked via the IMOS Ocean gliders Facility website or via the Rutgers University site. It is also available through the IMOS Ocean Current website. Measurements of temperature and salinity at depths up to 1,000 metres are available in near real time.


Previous IMOS articles on the Challenger mission

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