SAMS news room

Seaglider “Ardbeg” goes to sea

SAMS scientists are doing sea trials with a new Seaglider for the first time today off the West Coast of Scotland, in preparation for a six-month, collaborative research cruise later this year.

The team, led by Professor Mark Inall, set off on a beautiful spring morning in Seol Mara–SAMS’s inshore research vessel—headed for Ardmucknish Bay near Oban, where Seaglider 545’s systems and buoyancy were to be checked and trialled.

Before deploying Seaglider 545 today, the team measured the water density using a CTD (conductivity, temperature and depth) Castaway. Seawater density depends on salinity levels that vary from one area of sea to another and particularly so in inshore waters, which are affected by fresh water runoff. A glider is programmed for a range of water densities to ensure it can return to the surface from the depths of the sea. The CTD is a failsafe to ensure the preprogrammed range of densities matches actual densities. At a cost of £140k per glider, this morning at the dock the scientists focused conscientiously on all pre-departure checks. Last December, a different research institute lost contact with one of its gliders that has never been recovered.

SAMS operates the North Atlantic Glider Base and Seaglider 545, named “Ardbeg”, joins “Talisker” our first Seaglider. Gliders are autonomous vehicles that measure continuously the temperature, salinity, oxygen and florescence of phytoplankton as they dive up and down, profiling from the surface down to 1000m, although today’s maximum depth was about 50m. Having recorded data from various depths, on its return to the surface the glider transmits via an Iridium satellite system the data gathered to the base station at SAMS. SAMS gliders have a dedicated webpage, which can be tracked in real-time . “Ardbeg” has also been fitted with a new internal recording sensor, a DTAG, from the Sea Mammal Research Unit at the University of St Andrews to detect cetaceans.

The joint research cruise scheduled for September in the Celtic Sea will be part of a four-year, physical science programme called FASTNEt (Fluxes Across Sloping Topography of the North East Atlantic). FASTNEt is a consortium made up of three research institutes, SAMS, the National Oceanography Centre (NOC) and Plymouth Marine Laboratory (PML) and three universities –Bangor, Liverpool and Plymouth. There are five additional project partners: UKMO, Marine Scotland Science, AFBI, Marine Institute Ireland and SCRIPPS Institution of Oceanography.

This research aims to quantify the exchange of seawater between the ocean margins and shelf seas. Shelf seas lie at a critical interface, linking land, atmosphere and ocean carbon pools and ocean overturning influences regional climates.

For more information contact Professor Mark Inall by email

or Cathy Winterton in the Communications Office 01631 559 342

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