Pink robots of the sea

By Karen Wilson

The sun sets late up here in the north; it was almost 11pm before I managed to drag myself away from the beautiful sunset behind islands south of Iceland last night.

Today was an early start for me as not only was it my first CTD watch of the trip, but it was also the day of the first Seaglider deployment. It has been a full day of science for me which has made up for the quiet of the past few days in transit. It started off with CTD sampling after breakfast and then straight into pre-launch preparations of the glider.

Glider operations always generate some interest about the ship, as many people have never seen one in operation. Our gliders always get a little bit more interest than normal due to their eye-catching colour scheme – PINK – not my choice I might add. Yes, that’s right, when ordering our highly specialised autonomous scientific equipment SAMS believed that pink was the way to go. Naming the gliders thankfully was given some more thought. All the gliders we operate at SAMS been named after Scottish towns, areas or Islands. The two being deployed on this trip are Knockando and Laphroaig. Conveniently all the place names are also names of whiskies so we get to have as celebratory drink whenever we complete a successful mission.

Today’s deployment couldn’t have had better weather; after the storms on the way here, it was a pleasure to sit out in the sun getting Knockando ready, with Iceland still visible in the distance. Two teams are needed to be able to deploy a glider, here on the ship we are the field team taking care of checking and deploying the glider, while the pilots are located back in Oban. The pilot for launch is in communication with the glider via Iridium satellites and are checking all the files to ensure the glider is operating correctly and has the correct commands to carry out its mission. Once the glider is in the water the pilot takes control and sends it off for its first shallow dive. Once we seen that this dive had been successful we headed off to our next CTD station while the pilot finished the early deployment checks.

Now as we head south following the EEL, Knockando is heading off to the west making her way to Greenland. Her mission is to observe the glacial waters flowing out into the ocean from Kangerlussuaq in Greenland before being collected by an Icelandic fisheries research vessel in November.

You can follow the Knockandos progress at http://velocity.sams.ac.uk/gliders and https://twitter.com/samsglider

Photos by Karen Wilson, Natalia Serpetti and Penny Holliday

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