International Academic Collaboration Key to the Success of the Challenger Mission

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OliverSince Rick Spinrad presented the challenge in early December 2009 at the end of RU 27’s historic crossing of the Atlantic, MARACOOS partner Rutgers, along with other institutions both in the US and abroad, have been collaborating to send a fleet of gliders around the world. 

The operation is dubbed ‘The Challenger Mission’ after the HMS Challenger’s circumnavigation of the globe on the first true oceanographic expedition of 1872-1876.  The goal is to take a fleet of 16 electric Slocum Gliders along the track of the original HMS Challenger, collecting important scientific data.  However, the key is to carry out the mission largely on student involvement.

The first Slocum Glider for this mission, ‘Silbo’ was supplied by Teledyne Webb Research and deployed off of Iceland June 23, 2011.  Heading the Rutgers involvement are two students, Senior Nilsen Strandskov and Sophomore Oliver Ho.  Together with Antonio Ramos of the University of Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, this team has been analyzing a number of ocean models (HYCOM, MYOCEAN, NCOM, NLOM), weather forecasts and data sets to find the best route from Iceland to the Canary Islands while keeping record of the progress on the Challenger Blog.  During the summer of 2011, Rutgers hosted two students from PLOCAN, Ruben Marrero and Alberto Gonzalez, who helped with the piloting, analysis of data and plotting of the thermal wind equation to calculate heat transport in the water column.  Nilsen is now working on taking the thermal wind equation and applying it to Silbo and other Slocum Gliders that have collected data sufficient for the calculation.