Last fall, four autonomous Wave Gliders set out from San Francisco Bay to begin a two-fold mission: gather data about the oceans' depths and break records. The vessels, crafted by ocean data services provider Liquid Robotics, were launched in pairs, with one set headed for Australia and the other, Japan. Now one year later, the first of this fuel-less flotilla -- dubbed Papa Mau -- has completed its intended journey, reaching the land of Oz this past November 20th and beating out the remaining three Gliders at sea (one of which malfunctioned and had to be pulled from the water).
As the PacX project's team is quick to point out, the culmination of this record-breaking 9,000 mile trek was less about gaining a Guinness entry and more about generating publicity for the mass of hitherto unrecorded oceanic information. But though the initial run of the project is currently winding down, the outfit's SVP of Product Management Graham Hine expects further trips to Antarctica, the poles and the Northwest passage will follow at some point in the future. Without a doubt, the whole experiment's a master class in using the power of PR for the greater good, while giving marine biologists a treasure trove of useful data. Check out the source below for an expanded look at the project's roots and be sure to skip past the break for a video of the vessel's retrieval.
Liquid Robotics' marine robot completes 9,000 mile cross-Pacific journey to set new world record
Top five finalists selected for PacX scientific challenge
Sydney, Australia - December 6, 2012
U.S. based Liquid Robotics®, an ocean data service provider and developer of the Wave Glider®, the first wave powered autonomous marine robot, today announced the first Pacific Crossing (PacX) Wave Glider, "Papa Mau", completed its 9,000 nautical mile (16,668 kilometers) scientific journey across the Pacific Ocean to set a new world record for the longest distance traveled by an autonomous vehicle. Throughout his journey, Papa Mau navigated along a prescribed route under autonomous control collecting and transmitting unprecedented amounts of high-resolution ocean data never before available over these vast distances or timeframes. The Company is providing open access to this data as part of its PacX Challenge, a global competition seeking new ocean applications and research using the PacX data set. Today, the Company announced the five PacX Challenge finalists.
During Papa Mau's journey, he weathered gale force storms, fended off sharks, spent more than 365 days at sea, skirted around the Great Barrier Reef, and finally battled and surfed the East Australian Current (EAC) to reach his final destination in Hervey Bay near Bundaberg, Queensland, Australia. He traveled through and measured over 1200 miles of a chlorophyll bloom along the Equatorial Pacific. These blooms indicate proliferation of phytoplankton that is fundamental to ocean life and climate regulation. While typically monitored through satellite imagery direct validation of chlorophyll blooms at this resolution provides a groundbreaking link between scientific modeling and in-situ measurement of the Pacific Ocean.
"To say we are excited and proud of Papa Mau reaching his final destination is an understatement," said Bill Vass, CEO of Liquid Robotics. "We set off on the PacX journey to demonstrate that Wave Glider technology could not only survive the high seas and a journey of this length, but more importantly, collect and transmit ocean data in real-time from the most remote portions of the Pacific Ocean. We've demonstrated delivery of ocean data services through the most challenging ocean conditions. Mission accomplished."
An important aspect of the PacX program is the PacX Challenge, a competition designed to encourage scientists and students to make use of the PacX data in interesting, productive, or innovative ways. Research abstracts were submitted from around the world to compete for the grand prize award of a $50,000 research grant from BP and six months of Wave Glider data services.
"Liquid Robotics is proud to announce the PacX Science Board has selected five outstanding finalists to compete for the PacX grand prize," said Luke Beatman, Oceanographer at Liquid Robotics and chairman of the PacX Science Board. "These scientists will conduct research into some of the world's most challenging ocean issues ranging from measuring the ocean's health and respiration to studying the ocean's biomass - the most fundamental organisms critical to ocean life." The five PacX finalists are:
J. Michael Beman, University of California Merced, Merced, CA
Nicole Goebel, University of California Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA
Andrew Lucas, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, CA
Elise Ralph, Wise Eddy, Boston, MA
Tracy Villareal, University of Texas, Port Aransas, TX
Closely following Papa Mau's arrival in Australia is the second of the Australian PacX ocean robots, named Benjamin. He is expected to land in early 2013. One of the pair heading for Japan, Fontaine Maru, is returning to Hawai'i for repair and will continue his journey to Japan once complete. To follow their progress, please visit http://www.liquidr.com/pacx/.