Spray gliders are robotic submarines that navigate underwater without a human crew onboard and without cables connecting them to research vessels at the sea surface. Spray gliders are among a class of ocean instruments known as autonomously operated vehicles, or AUVs. Each Spray Glider is 2 meters (6.5 feet) in length, and has a wingspan of 1.2 meters (3.9 feet).
This glider was photographed on the fantail of the R/V Cape Hatteras prior to launch for the September-October 2004 mission from Cape Cod, Mass. to Bermuda. The black cable was disconnected from a laptop computer after the glider's computers received final mission instructions (Jane Dunworth-Baker, WHOI)
Russ Davis, a professor at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, works on a Spray Glider in a test tank at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute.
These gliders can dive to depths of over 1,000 meters (0.62 mile), and can stay at sea for months at a time. Programmed at the surface, the gliders follow a roller-coaster path through the water, collecting data on temperature and salinity as they go. Each time they reach the surface, they send their data and location information back to shore stations via satellite. (Kim Fulton-Bennett, 2003 MBARI )
Jeff Sherman (left), a specialist in the physical oceanography department at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, lead operations on the design of the Spray Glider during its inception in 1996.
Breck Owens (center), a senior scientist in physical oceanography at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), helped to coordinate efforts for the glider's Gulf Stream crossing in September. With them is Brian Guest, a senior engineer at WHOI. (Tom Kleindinst, WHOI)
On September 11, 2004, Senior Engineer Brian Guest (left) of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution worked on deck of the R/V Cape Hatteras to prepare Spray Glider number 007 to travel across the Gulf Stream.
Before launch he removed the black cable, which was connected to a computer that gave the glider mission instructions. With him is John Ahern, a marine technician on the R/V Cape Hatteras. (Jane Dunworth-Baker, WHOI)
The crew of the R/V Cape Hatteras use the ship's crane to lift the glider from its cradle. Brian Guest uses a pole to steady the instrument as it lowers into the sea. (Jane Dunworth-Baker, WHOI)
With a tug of the release line, Brian Guest allows the glider to float free of the lifting cradle and begin its mission across the Gulf Stream. Researchers on the R/V Cape Hatteras launched the glider approximately 80 nautical miles south of Nantucket Island, Cape Cod, Mass. After traveling approximately 650 nautical miles for 40 to 50 days, the mission will conclude in Bermuda. (Jane Dunworth-Baker, WHOI)
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