Sunday, 18 March 2012

The final float...

Our final science work was completed yesterday with the deployment of an Argo float towards the northern end of Drake Passage. I spoke to Brian King from the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton, and asked him to tell me a little about the SOLO float we deployed. Here is his account:

"Today we gently lowered into the sea the last of nine floats we have been deploying for the international Argo program. Not unlike a diver's buoyancy control jacket, each float has an inflatable bladder that enables it to sink to 1 km depth, drift for 10 days and then dive a further kilometre before rising to the surface and sending data ashore by satellite. During its cycle it makes measurements of ocean temperature and salinity that will be used to understand the changing ocean on timescales of weeks to decades. These particular floats, deployed on behalf of colleagues at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, join a fleet of over 3000 active floats contributed by over 20 countries, which between them provide data that describe the global ocean with unprecedented detail. In the last 10 years, floats like these have gathered more ocean profiles than the entire history of ocean observing put together. And they don't mind whether its night or day, summer or winter, good weather or bad. Our float will continue its lonely vigil in the cold dark ocean for 5 years, drifting wherever the currents take it, visiting the surface briefly every ten days, until its batteries are exhausted and it can no longer reach the surface or broadcast data. Its mission will then be complete, its task to be taken up by a new float deployed from another research expedition not yet planned."

Letting go of the float!

Many thanks to Louis St. Laurent for the photos of the deployment. We are currently steaming northwards towards Punta Arenas, and should reach our berth around 4pm tomorrow. After the completion of the final data processing and compilation of the ever-important cruise report, it will be time to start packing up our equipment...

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