Swimming Robot in Australia After 9,000-Mile Journey from San Francisco

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By Vittorio Hernandez | December 7, 2012 10:22 AM EST

PacX Wave Glider, the self-controlled swimming robot, reached Australia on Thursday, Dec 6, after a 9,000-nautical mile journey from San Francisco over one year.

Made of two halves, the robot's upper part is shaped similar to a stunted surfboard and attached by a cable to the lower part that has fins and a keel. It does not use fuel but converted energy utilising ocean waves, plus it has solar panels on the upper surface of the griders power sensors that takes readings every 10 minutes.

While swimming across the Pacific Ocean, the robot - also called Papa Mau - collected data on temperature, salinity and ecosystem. The robot is owned by Liquid Robotics, a U.S. company.

The original Papa Mau is Pius Piailug, a Micronesian navigator who is known for finding ways to navigate the seas sans traditional equipment.

"During Papa Mau's journey, (it) weathered gale-force storms, fended off sharks, spent more than 365 days at sea, skirted around the Great Barrier Reef, and finally battled and surfed the East Australian current to reach his final destination in Hervey Bay, near Bundaberg, Queensland," Liquid Robotics said in a statement.

Among the data that the robot gathered was the abundance of phytoplankton-plantlike organisms that convert carbon dioxide into oxygen and provide food for other marine life. It also monitored about 2,000 kilometres of chlorophyll bloom near the equator, which validated existing satellite data.

The company owners three more similar robots, with the second scheduled to arrive in Australia in early 2013 and a pair swimming to Japan, but one suffered a damage and was sidetracked to Hawaii for repair.

The project is sponsored by Google Earth and Virgin Oceanic.

Here is a video of the project launch on Nov 17, 2011.

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