Boaty McBoatface Gears Up for Epic Swim Across the Arctic

WIRED | 2/20/2019 | Eric Niiler
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Boaty McBoatface may be better known for its name than for its oceangoing prowess. But the autonomous underwater vehicle and darling of the internet is headed to greater things: embarking on the longest journey of an AUV by far, with an uninterrupted, roughly 2,000-mile crossing of the Arctic Ocean.

The submersible robot got its moniker when it became the consolation prize in a 2016 publicity stunt. The United Kingdom's Natural Environmental Research Council had created an online poll to name the country's new polar research ship. The public picked “Boaty McBoatface” (suggested by a BBC radio announcer), but the British government nixed the idea and named the ship after naturalist David Attenborough. Instead a 12-foot long, 1,500-pound AUV got the moniker, which is emblazoned across its bulbous yellow hull.

PR - Hubbub - Scientists - Boaty - Areas

Once the PR hubbub died down, British scientists started putting Boaty to work in treacherous areas. The probe has explored the waters beneath Antarctica on multiday jaunts: Its first mission in 2017 was to Antarctica’s Weddell Sea, where it made a 13,000-foot dive into the Orkney Passage—a narrow chasm where cold water flows down an underwater canyon like a waterfall. Scientists wanted to know more about the deep passage and how the mixing of frigid Antarctic waters with the warmer Southern Ocean affected ocean currents and the climate.

Boaty's second mission, in 2018, was to assess the stability of Antarctica's Filchner ice shelf, which faces the Atlantic Ocean. It’s a place that polar scientists believe could be especially sensitive to the effects of warming air and sea temperatures. Data gathered during that underwater expedition, which lasted more than 50 hours and covered some 60 miles, is now being fed into climate models to better predict how fast the ice shelf might melt and how its disappearance will affect global sea level rise, the British...
(Excerpt) Read more at: WIRED
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