Boaty McBoatface AUV Set to Embark on Its First Research Mission

By AUVSI News posted 15-03-2017 14:52


An autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) named Boaty McBoatface is preparing to embark on its first research mission to Antarctica on March 17.

Boaty McBoatface will travel on the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) research ship, the James Clark Ross, as a part of the DynOPO (Dynamics of the Orkney Passage Outflow) expedition. The ship will depart from Punta Arenas in Chile.

During its mission, the AUV will be tasked with researching water flow and turbulence in the depths of the Orkney Passage, which is a 3.5km deep region of the Southern Ocean, and is known for having some of the coldest and deepest abyssal ocean waters on earth, which are known as Antarctic Bottom Water (AABW).

The data collected during the AUV’s exploration will be transmitted back to researchers via a radio link, and will help scientists get an understanding of how the ocean is reacting to global warming.

“The Orkney Passage is a key choke-point to the flow of abyssal waters in which we expect the mechanism linking changing winds to abyssal water warming to operate,” says Prof. Alberto Naveira Garabato from the University of Southampton, via The Guardian. Garabato is the lead scientist on the project.

“We will measure how fast the streams flow, how turbulent they are, and how they respond to changes in winds over the Southern Ocean.”

Garabato adds, “our goal is to learn enough about these convoluted processes to represent them in the models that scientists use to predict how our climate will evolve over the 21st century and beyond.”

Capable of reaching depths of 6,000 meters, Boaty McBoatface got its name through a campaign that was launched by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) to help determine the name of a new polar research ship in the NERC’s fleet.

The name was jokingly suggested by a BBC Radio Jersey presenter, and won in a vote by the public, but the council decided to name the ship the Royal Research Ship Sir David Attenborough, after the famous naturalist and broadcaster.

As a conciliation, the council named three AUVs Boaty McBoatface. The AUVs are a part of the Autosub Long Range class of underwater vehicles, which were developed at Southampton’s National Oceanography Centre (NOC).

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Photo Courtesy of the National Oceanography Centre

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