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Gliding into the future

Nova Scotian Joshua Slocum was the first person to sail alone around the world.

Nova Scotian Joshua Slocum was the first person to sail alone around the world. Now, an unmanned underwater glider bearing his name offers hope that some marine and weather data can be done by remote control.


The two-metre glider began a 2,600-kilometre trip from New Jersey to Halifax on March 7. Travelling at a leisurely one-knot speed, it dove up to the surface, then down again every two hours.


It arrived in Halifax on April 28, after hitching a ride on the Gulf Stream and meandering across the Scotian Shelf. Throughout the trip, Dalhousie University oceanography professor Marlon Lewis, whose company, Satlantic, provides the research sensors on the glider, was keeping track of the glider’s progress by satellite.


“It was mildly addictive. We were watching its progress every day,” Lewis said.


Sensors aboard the glider collected information on marine temperatures, organic compounds in the water and the like. For this trip — the longest the glider has ever done — fewer sensors were active because the research team was trying to save battery power.


Lewis said the glider could be used to do some of the research now done by larger, manned ships, which cost $30,000 a day to operate.


Dalhousie University plans to buy three of the gliders for research purposes, Lewis said. The gliders cost about $100,000 each.


–rachel.boomer@metronews.ca


 
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