Robots detect phytoplankton bloom in open Pacific

By on July 5, 2012

A fleet of unmanned vehicles in the midst of a first-of-its kind journey across the Pacific Ocean has detected a large phytoplankton bloom in a section of open ocean largely thought to be barren.

Launched from San Francisco in November, 2011 and bound for Australia and Japan, the Wave Glider robots from Liquid Robotics are equipped with a suite of environmental sensors, including Turner Design’s C3 Fluorometer. The fluorometer on one of the gliders detected an increase in chlorophyll around 1,000 miles southeast of Hawaii on June 20, and a trailing glider confirmed the increase on June 26.

The robots convert wave energy into forward thrust and solar panels power the sensors, rudder and satellite communications. Data collected by the sensors is available for free. The gliders’ journey will be the longest ever by an unmanned ocean vessel.

About Jeff Gillies

Jeff Brooks-Gillies has written about science, energy and the environment for going on 10 years. He's a native Michigander who, after a stint in Colorado, lives in Indianapolis with his wife and two kids.

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