A British hi-tech ocean measuring device lost on Christmas day five years ago has been discovered on a beach in Tasmania 9000 miles away.
Scientists at the UK’s National Oceanography Centre (NOC) launched the device in 2011 to measure the world’s largest ocean current.
The ‘deep-ocean lander instrument’ was released into the Drake Passage, a narrow section of ocean between South America and Antarctica.
By measuring ocean bottom pressure, the device aimed to map the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, responsible for keeping warm ocean waters away.
The current is three times bigger than the Gulf Stream and connects all three major ocean basins, transporting heat and carbon between them.
It circulates around the whole of Antarctica, keeping the waters cold enough to maintain the Antarctic continent’s huge ice sheet.
The device was due to spend two years collecting data at a depth of 1100 metres,- monitored by research ship James Clark Ross.
It makes recordings using precision pressure sensors, with the added ability to monitor ocean salinity and temperature.
But after the release mechanism got tangled, the device was lost, drifting for five years before reaching the shore.
It was found washed up on a beach in western Tasmania some 9000 miles away from its original location.
After being made aware of the find, manufacturers used serial numbers to trace the NOC and contact them.
The process of removal from the beach took several trips – with data sensors taken to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation.
A research team were able to recover some of the information and hope the data will soon provide insights into a remarkable journey.
Professor Ed Hill, Executive Director of the NOC, said “Finding this instrument is like an early Christmas present.
“The Antarctic Circumpolar Currentis key to understanding the dynamics of the global ocean, so these sustained observations are incredibly important.
“There is no better place to make these observations than the narrow Drake Passage, which is why this instrument was deployed there before it made its epic journey to Tasmania.
“The NOC’s sustained observing of the Antarctic Circumpolar Currentis an important part of our on-going commitment to improve understanding of future environmental change, as well as the relationship between oceans and climate.”
Researchers have since returned to the Drake Passage – where they map the bottom pressure on an annual basis.
By Daniel Hammond
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