Robot boats survive epic voyage across the Pacific — so far

Posted: 06/08/2012 in all marine news

Brian Lam – 

Twenty-two feet below the surface, the robot glider towed me slowly through clear Hawaiian seas.

The day before, a similar glider named Benjamin had arrived in these same waters.

Benjamin and three companion gliders had traveled all the way from San Francisco — more than 3,000 miles — powered by only the motion of ocean waves.

Before they left California, Liquid Robotics VP of Operations Graham Hine blessed the gliders by smashing a bottle of champagne on one of their frames, asking nature for assistance: “Neptune, god of the seas, and Aeolus, god of the winds, we ask for your blessings upon these vessels that are going to transit from here to parts formerly unexplored by this kind of robot.”

The gliders had endured an epic journey from California to Hawaii, but they were on a mere layover — they’re in the middle of an attempt to cross the entire Pacific.

There’s a world record for “greatest distance by an autonomous wave-powered vehicle” at stake, and on Monday four of the gliders left Hawaii to resume their quest to cross the world’s largest body of water on mostly wave power.

The next leg of their trip will take them some 5,000 more nautical miles to the coasts of Australia and Japan.

The Wave Gliders’ journey is more than just a title grab for a machine that was first created as a modest tool to track whale songs.

And the journey is more than just an endurance test for the machines, which are capable swimmers.

Full story…

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