Autonomous Ocean Vehicles

S.O.S. Europa Needs Your Help

If you’ve been following Europa’s journey west, you probably noticed a very distinct change in it’s behavior on February 11th, 2019 (about 9 days ago).

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This was not a planned detour.

Unfortunately, all communication to the the sub has been lost. We can no longer control the rudder, and that means Europa is currently just drifting with the ocean’s currents.

We are not sure what exactly caused this communication failure, but we took all possible steps to fix it remotely and found no success.

When the sub loses communication, it automatically gives itself a “right rudder”. This is for situations like the one we are currently in, and the hope is that the glider will just circle in the area where it lost communication until it can be fixed or recovered.

Being that the glider is out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, there are a lot of strong currents that are pushing the glider in certain directions. When the sub is trying to do one thing, and the float another, twists in the umbilical can occur.

One twist means that the float has become 360 degrees out of sync with the sub. As you can see in the images below, Europa has had a number of twists take place since this communication error took place.

Europa at the beginning of the “right rudder” on February 11, 2019

Europa at the beginning of the “right rudder” on February 11, 2019

Europa after a few days of drifting with the “right rudder”

Europa after a few days of drifting with the “right rudder”

Obviously, our plans have now changed! We need to find a way to recover the glider.

There are actually a number of foreign fishing boats out in the vicinity, but that proves slightly difficult for a number of reasons. Language, when they will go back to port, ability to recovery the glider, willingness to help. These are all factors in this recovery that we are currently dealing with.

Other options are also available in the Marshall Islands (currently about 700 nautical miles SSW of Europa), but they have their own issues as well.

The above shows the path of a Taiwanese fishing boat, and how it missed direct contact with Europa by only 2.5 hours. The distance from the point where the two paths intersect to where Europa is currently at in this image is only 1 nautical mile. Unfortunately, due to communication issues, we were not able to contact the ship and have them try to recover Europa for us.

The above shows the path of a Taiwanese fishing boat, and how it missed direct contact with Europa by only 2.5 hours. The distance from the point where the two paths intersect to where Europa is currently at in this image is only 1 nautical mile. Unfortunately, due to communication issues, we were not able to contact the ship and have them try to recover Europa for us.

Of note: Europa will typically automatically avoid vessels that it determines are in its path within a certain distance. Because of the fact that the float cannot communicate with the sub, this functionality is now basically inoperable. This puts Europa at a higher risk of being run over by a boat while drifting at sea, hence, we are trying to recover sooner rather than later. In the mean time, we are requesting audio files that are stored on board in 30 second clips through Rudics in hopes to salvage as much data as possible in the event that we eventually lose Europa to a collision.

There are a few really good things that we still have going for us. We have full communication to the float. The sub is still attached. The cameras and lights and sensors on the float are still working.

 
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These are all things that we’re actually very happy about. We are able to keep an up-to-date location on Europa, and expect that’s going to be a vital part of the recovery once we get a plan in place.

We are constantly working on a way to get Europa back, and will keep you updated along the journey.

As always, you can continue to track Europa along the way, and if you have any information or thoughts as to how to help aide in the recovery, we’d love to hear them.

Please feel free to reach out! We are offering a reward for the recovery of Europa.

Please contact admin@jupiterfoundation.org

Mahalo, and aloha!


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Europa's NOT Drunk!

You may have noticed that Europa has been bouncing around a bit more than it did on HUMPACS East. Well don’t worry…it’s intentional!

The general path that Europa is following goes along 20oN latitude.

The reason that it is not going in a straight line is because there are numerous seamounts and guyots (aka tablemounts) that we are having it navigate over on it’s way to the Mariana Trench.

Seamounts are basically underwater mountains that are at least 1,000m tall. They do not actually reach the ocean’s surface. Guyots are seamounts that did, at one time, rise above the ocean’s surface, but then eroded away, flattened out, and eventually sunk back down underwater.

Why does all of this matter?

Well, since Europa is basically a very small fish in a very big pond, we need to strategically look for these humpback whales. Even though most of the time the tops of these seamounts and guyots can be found many hundreds, if not thousands, of meters below the ocean’s surface, they are actually great producers of marine ecosystems. That makes us think that we might have a better shot at stumbling upon some humpbacks in those areas, as opposed to simply out in the middle of an even deeper ocean.

There has been some research to support the statement that humpbacks seem to frequent seamounts and guyots, though the exact reason why hasn’t been determined.

The leading theories are that the landmarks serve as resting and/or feeding areas, points for navigation, and even meeting grounds (source: PubMed Central®).

Maybe they’re sharing different versions of their song? At the end of the day, we don’t really know why…yet!

If you’d like to dive a little deeper into the science and evolution of a seamount, check out our blog post Mountains in the Deep Sea.

Figure 1: Europa’s path on a nautical chart. Europa is currently traveling from East to West, and navigating over many different seamounts and guyots. (Depths are in meters).

Figure 1: Europa’s path on a nautical chart. Europa is currently traveling from East to West, and navigating over many different seamounts and guyots. (Depths are in meters).

 
Figure 2: Zoomed in image to show more detailed depths of the Horizon Tablemount that Europa traveled over Jan 16-19, 2019.

Figure 2: Zoomed in image to show more detailed depths of the Horizon Tablemount that Europa traveled over Jan 16-19, 2019.

Figure 3: Europa circling a particular seamount. We will have Europa do this from time to time to search a little more for humpbacks in areas we suspect them to be.

Figure 3: Europa circling a particular seamount. We will have Europa do this from time to time to search a little more for humpbacks in areas we suspect them to be.

If you check out the HUMPACS page, you’ll notice that from January 16-19 Europa was cruising over the Horizon Tablemount. In another two or three weeks, Europa should be traveling around the HIG Guyot. This particular guyot is of note to us here in Hawaii because it was actually discovered about 37 years ago by the “Kana Keoki” research vessel, and named after the Hawaiian Institute of Geophysics (source: Marineregions.org).

So, for those of you that were wondering, and dare we say concerned, about Europa’s up and down path…worry no more! Europa is doing exactly what we want it to do, and we’re collecting lots of great data that we look forward to sharing later on.

Until then, keep checking in and watching Europa as it makes it’s way West across the Pacific Ocean.

Also, check out our live audio stream of the humpback whales that are swimming around Puako, HI right now!

Aloha!



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Photo Time-lapses from Europa

Almost one month has passed since we recovered Europa, and we are still in the process of analyzing data, however; we have reviewed all of our photos. During the 3.5 month mission, we had a camera attached to both the top and bottom of Europa’s float that took above and underwater images periodically on a daily basis.

The top camera was mounted on the back of the float looking forward, which enabled us to inspect the float and antenna deck during the mission. The bottom camera looked down towards the sub underneath the water to help us check the sub and umbilical. In the previous blog, we mentioned we had a gooseneck barnacle that grew over the underwater camera lens. Even so, we were still able to get glimpses of the sub for diagnostic purposes.

Over the 3.5 month mission, the top and bottom mounted cameras took over 500 photos each. We have constructed two time-lapse videos of the above and underwater pictures, which are each a little over three minutes long. We were able to capture some fantastic photos! The sunset photos and waves washing over the float are captivating, and it’s fun to watch the barnacle grow over time in the underwater footage.

In our next blog, we will post some sample of audio files of some exciting sounds we’ve heard, including odontocetes whistles and clicks, echolocation, and other unusual noises. Stay tuned!


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