Re­search drones glide through our wa­ters

Zululand Observer - Weekender - - ZO NEWS - Dave Sa­vides

SILENTLY snaking their way un­der­wa­ter, two ocean pro­fil­ing re­search glid­ers sneaked down the Zu­l­u­land coast late last year to gather valu­able sci­en­tific in­for­ma­tion.

A part of the GINA (Glid­ers in the Agul­has) ini­tia­tive, the ‘sub­merged drones’ trav­elled south­wards be­tween the sur­face and to depths of up to one kilo­me­tre.

These au­tonomous ro­botic plat­forms, which are cost­ef­fec­tive and easy to de­ploy, used two-way com­mu­ni­ca­tions to re­lay data back to the shore in real time.

‘Fly­ing’ in the ex­cep­tion­ally fast-flow­ing Agul­has cur­rent, the glid­ers at times trav­elled dis­tances of more than 100km per day.

Fol­low­ing their two-month jour­ney from 60km north of Richards Bay to

Port El­iz­a­beth, the glid­ers were re­cov­ered in Oc­to­ber and plan­ning is in progress for new de­ploy­ments in late Fe­bru­ary this year

The ob­ser­va­tions col­lected from the glid­ers’ on-board sen­sors will help sci­en­tists bet­ter un­der­stand the im­pact of ocean cur­rents off South Africa’s east coast on the trans­port of mass, heat, salt, bio­geo­chem­i­cal vari­ables and plank­ton.

‘While glid­ers have been suc­cess­fully op­er­ated in the South­ern Ocean re­gion since 2012, no sus­tained glider ob­ser­va­tions pro­gramme has been es­tab­lished around the South African coast­line de­spite the eco­nomic and bi­o­log­i­cal im­por­tance of these coastal and shelf re­gions,’ said re­searcher Dr Mar­jo­laine Krug of the Nat­u­ral Re­sources and En­vi­ron­ment unit of the CSIR.

‘GINA is our first step to­wards a sus­tained glider ob­ser­va­tions net­work around South Africa’s coast­line which will com­ple­ment and en­hance ex­ist­ing ob­serv­ing net­works.

‘The glider ob­ser­va­tions col­lected this year are a di­rect con­tri­bu­tion to the ACEP CAP­TOR Pro­ject (Con­nec­tiv­ity And dis­Per­sal be­Tween prO­tected aR­eas) which aims to in­ves­ti­gate the im­por­tance of ma­rine pro­tected ar­eas for the preser­va­tion of the ma­rine ecosys­tem and to as­sist in fish­eries man­age­ment.,’

said Krug.

Craig Larvis (STS) and Siseko Benya (SAIAB) on board the re­search ves­sel Phak­isa be­fore the de­ploy­ment of a Web Tele­dyne Slocum glider

Map of sea sur­face tem­per­a­ture on Septem­ber 2018. Over­laid are the paths fol­lowed by the glid­ers de­ployed be­tween Septem­ber and No­vem­ber 2018. The black lines on the map show the lo­ca­tion of the 200m, 1000m and 3000m depth con­tours.

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