Wave Glider

For Immediate Release:

Ed Lyman-HIHWNMS-NOAA Fisheries Permit #782-1719 (Original image has been altered to include Wave Glider) - Copy1.png

  

 

Autonomous (Robotic) Wave Glider Mission from Hawaii to Mexico Detects Humpback Whale Calls in Tropical Mid-Ocean and Questions Definition of Winter Breeding Assemblies 

Current NMFS humpback whale management policies assume Mexico and Hawaii winter assemblies are distinct with separate status and management warranted

 

BIG ISLAND, HAWAII July 1, 2019 – Jupiter Research Foundation and Whale Trust are pleased to announce the publication of the results of the first leg of their autonomous Wave Glider HUMPACS (Humpback Pacific Survey) acoustic survey in Journal of the Acoustic Society of America – Express Letters. During a 100-day nearly 7,000 km (3,800 nm) round trip survey on a line between Hawaii and Mexico within the 2018 winter breeding season, humpback whale calls were heard in mid-ocean basin, halfway between the known near-shore assemblies. 

“They’re not ‘supposed’ to be there,” says Dr. Jim Darling, Whale Trust biologist and project partner. Humpbacks are known to assemble in specific near-shore, relatively shallow, breeding grounds in Mexico and Hawaii. “But then no one has looked in these more remote, offshore areas either.”

Mission control was from Puako, Hawaii where Beth Goodwin, Jupiter Research Foundation VP and HUMPACS Project Manager, and her team were in daily communication with the Wave Glider: monitoring status, downloading surface and underwater photographs, downloading short samples of recordings via satellite, and making course alterations if needed. 

From January 16 to April 25, 2018, the Wave Glider, named Europa (after one of Jupiter’s moons), performed a 6,965.5 km, 100-day (RT) continual acoustic survey from Hawaii towards Mexico circa 20° N. The survey resulted in 2,272 hours of recordings and included over 4,000 cetacean calls.  Of these calls, 2,048 were identified as humpback whale calls.

The humpback calls were recorded up to 2,184 km (1179 nm) offshore spanning 30 days between January 20, when the Wave Glider left Hawaii, to February 23, 2018. On many days, multiple humpback call detections were recorded (up to 377 calls over 23 hours of a day). Actual numbers of whales cannot be determined, as one whale can make many calls.

“This was risky, we had no idea if humpbacks were even out there,” says Goodwin. “And then, even if they were, there were needle-in-haystack odds of intersecting them considering the size of the Wave Glider and the size of the ocean.”

Possible explanations, suggests Darling, include an undocumented migration route to Hawaii, a separate (from Hawaii and Mexico) offshore assembly of humpback whales, or travel between Mexico and Hawaii assemblies within the same season. At the very least, these results indicate an extension of winter distribution and habitat of humpbacks. It could also be that these offshore whales have not been included in current population estimates.

Since 2016, the model used by the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to manage humpback whale populations has treated the Mexico and Hawaii winter assemblies of humpback whales as distinct populations. As such, these populations have different status under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA): Mexico humpback whales are considered threatened while Hawaii humpback whales have been delisted; that is, the Hawaii population has no protection under the ESA.

This assessment is further complicated by longstanding research showing shared song between the breeding assemblies and an interchange of photo-identified individual whales between these two winter breeding grounds.

Our findings question the independence of Mexico and Hawaii humpback whale populations and illustrate the huge potential for the use of autonomous vehicles in the study of whales across remote locations of the ocean.

“We feel certain our results will encourage more research, affect how humpback and other whales are monitored, and help with management,” says Goodwin.

The paper is online: https://doi.org/10.1121/1.5111970

 

BACKGROUND

 

Wave Glider

The Wave Glider (produced by Liquid Robotics, a Boeing Company) consists of a surfboard-sized surface platform (the float) tethered by an umbilical cable to a submerged glider (the sub) 8 m (26 ft.) below the surface. The float includes a command and control unit, three solar panels, an instrument package, surface and underwater cameras and communications systems. The sub is the propulsion unit, which transforms vertical wave movement into forward motion (https://www.liquid-robotics.com/wave-glider/how-it-works/). Time-lapse series of images from the two Europa cameras, surface and underwater, are accessible on the JRF blog:
http://jupiterfoundation.org/current/2018/5/22/f2l6bevguh177l21x42gi20pegicbv

About Jupiter Research Foundation

The Jupiter Research Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit scientific research organization. Established in 2003, the Foundation is dedicated to conducting innovative scientific research and finding technological solutions to problems which are outside of mainstream science and technology. Our findings are shared with the public and academic community in hopes of better monitoring and understanding the natural world. Visit https://jupiterfoundation.org/ to learn more. 

About Whale Trust

Whale Trust is a Maui-based 501(c)(3) non-profit organization whose mission is to promote, support and conduct scientific research on whales and the marine environment and broadly communicate the findings to the public. Whale Trust research programs focus on behavior, communication and social organization of whales. For more information, visit https://whaletrust.org/.


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Back to Hawaii

After 14 days of travel and adventure, we’re happy to say that Beth and Murray have touched ground back on the Big Island!

They successfully recovered Europa and all of the valuable scientific data that was collected on the mission. They then cleaned, disassembled, and packed up Europa in her entirety and shipped her home. She is expected to arrive on the Big Island within the next day or two.

For now, we are beginning to analyze the acoustic data. This is a pretty long and tedious task, but extremely valuable and necessary.

We have lots of video and pictures documenting the trip, and will post some of them in later updates.

Until then, check it out…we made the Marshall Islands newspaper!

Aloha!


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A Successful Recovery

We just wanted to let everyone know that Europa was successfully recovered about 650nm north of the Marshall Islands on Friday afternoon.

Beth, Murray, and crew got Europa on board safely and without doing any damage to the glider. They’ve already began pulling off data and trying to diagnose what went wrong.

We don’t know much yet, but we’ll keep you posted!

As always, feel free to follow along on the journey at the HUMPACS page.

Aloha!

Beth and crew after successfully recovering Europa 650nm north of the Marshall Islands

Beth and crew after successfully recovering Europa 650nm north of the Marshall Islands



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Hold On Europa, We're On Our Way!

As you all know from our last couple of blog posts, we lost control of Europa’s rudder module back on February 11, 2019, and have been putting our efforts towards recovering her since then.

Weather, logistics, and plenty of other things have been roadblocks, but we are now happy to report that WE ARE ON OUR WAY!

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This last Sunday, two members from our Hawaii team, Beth and Murray, started the journey to the Marshall Islands, and are now on a boat heading out into the deep blue sea to find and recover Europa. They are currently experiencing 22kt winds and 8-10'+ swells.

Fingers are crossed for good weather and safe travels; and of coarse, a successful recovery.

If things stay on schedule, we’ll hope to report back that the rescue mission has been a success in just a few days. We’ll definitely keep you all posted, but if you’d like to follow along as Beth and Murray make way, check out our HUMPACS map. You can click on the boat icon and see the distance until they reach Europa.

Ok, that’s it for now. Safe travels Beth and Murray!

Aloha!


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Interested in Ocean Currents?

Not having control of the rudder module on Europa has really put the Jupiter team in a tough spot. We are completely at the mercy of the sea. For the past month we’ve continued to put our efforts towards recovering Europa, but we’re not there just yet.

In the mean time, we can still learn some things!

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Like we mentioned in our last post, when we lost communication to the sub, the rudder automatically set itself in a “right rudder” position. Again, the goal is that it will do circles and stay in the same spot until it can either be fixed or recovered.

The ocean currents, however, have different plans!

If you’ve been following Europa you’ve noticed that it definitely hasn’t stayed in the same place. The currents are very strong out there in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, and even though Europa’s “right rudder” may slow things down, it’s not stopping the inevitable drifting to wherever the sea may take it.

 
The last 30 days of Europa’s travel, all of which it has been drifting with the ocean currents.

The last 30 days of Europa’s travel, all of which it has been drifting with the ocean currents.

 
Left: Zoomed in portion of the 30 day picture  Right: Even more zoomed in portion, representing about 2 days of drift

Left: Zoomed in portion of the 30 day picture

Right: Even more zoomed in portion, representing about 2 days of drift

As you can see, Europa is all over the place!

When we look a little closer, you get a really good idea of what’s happening out there. Currents can (and do) change all the time. For example, there might be a strong SW current in a location at noon, and then by 4pm it’s turned into a mild NW current.

Wind is the main contributor to surface ocean currents (the top 100m of the ocean). In the Northern Hemisphere, the winds basically circle in a clockwise motion. From East to West near the equator, and then from West to East up North. This helps to explain why Europa is drifting in a SW direction.

Actually, part of the reason we haven’t been able to recover Europa yet is due to the strong winds in the surrounding area.

If you have a look below, you can see the wind reports at, and around, Europa’s position. Remember, these are satellite projections. Europa is our real-time true report.

And here is a look at the currents (these are interactive widgets, so feel free to zoom and pan around)…

Depending on how much you zoom in, you can see the little areas where the currents just go in circles (aka gyres). In other areas there are just steady streams that basically go in one direction.

Europa has found itself in both of these throughout the last month, but, again, has mostly followed a SW path.

This is a unique, and unintentional, experiment where we get to monitor the ocean currents first hand out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. It’s pretty cool to compare to these satellite projections and see how accurate they actually are.

Europa’s location, relative to the entire Pacific Ocean.

Europa’s location, relative to the entire Pacific Ocean.

Well, we are still working to put together a recovery of Europa. Plans are in place, we are just waiting on a good break in the weather to go out an get it.

Our main hopes are that we keep communications to the float, and that it doesn’t get hit by some debris or a boat passing by. We’ve had some close calls, but so far so good!

We will keep you all updated and “current” (pun intended) as to what’s happening, and, as always, feel free to keep an eye on Europa from our HUMPACS page.

Aloha!


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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).

EuropaMap.JPG

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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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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Europa is Home!

After many late nights and early morning of monitoring Europa, she was finally close to home. Europa endured many challenges during the 3.5-month mission, from huge waves, high winds, strong currents, sharks, marine debris, to near collisions with large ships! We are very proud of her!

On April 24th, she rounded South Point and started veering north as she fought powerful south-bound currents. The currents had her barely creeping, so at daybreak on the 25th, our team loaded our vessel, the May Maru, with recovery gear, and trailered the boat to launch from Honokohau Harbor in Kona. We found Europa just south of Milolii, about five miles off the coast.The retrieval mission was about 90 miles round trip and took about four hours, an effort well spent.

In this video we were approaching Europa just south of Milolii,

Here we were pulling Europa up onto our boat with the davit.

Once we got her on the deck, we visually inspected her for any damages and documented all of the critters that had hitched a ride, such as barnacles, crabs, and fishes. We then secured her to the deck and brought her home. The following day, we disassembled and examined all the payloads, and continued to document, and then identify, the marine organisms and debris that lingered in the payload bays. Overall, everything was in good shape, and the biofoul was minimal.

We are currently in the process of analyzing the temperature and salinity data from the HOBO logger that was attached to the bottom of the float. We have over 800 above and underwater pictures to download. Also, we are preparing to investigate our 2,000+ hours of acoustic data. We will, therefore, be hard at work for the next few months. After our analysis, we’ll publish our results in a peer-reviewed Journal and on our website. Stay tuned for updates within the following months, and thank you for following our HUMPACS mission. We can’t wait to see what will be revealed!


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How the Sea Shapes our Lives

Ocean Currents. Photo by  Atlas for the End of the World

Ocean Currents. Photo by Atlas for the End of the World

The vast, mysterious ocean, covering 71 percent of the Earth, plays an essential role in our everyday lives. Not just for the coastal and island dwellers, but for everyone. The ocean provides many ecosystem services, including food production, fisheries, pharmaceuticals, oxygen regulation, carbon storage and sequestering, water quality enhancement, coastal protection, biodiversity, economy, cultural values, and climate and weather regulation. Without the ocean, we would not be able to survive.

One of the most critical ecosystem services of the ocean is weather and climate regulation because it affects economies and livelihoods on a global scale. The sea has a low albedo, meaning it absorbs most of the sun’s heat radiation. Thus, water molecules heat up and evaporate into the atmosphere and create storms that are carried over long distances by trade winds and currents. These storms can become destructive as they accumulate warm water while traveling over the ocean.

Ocean currents are crucial for regulating the climate and transferring heat around the globe. Water density, winds, tides, and the earth’s rotation direct and power the currents, which are found on the ocean’s surface and at a depth below 900 feet. They move water horizontally and vertically and occur on a local and global scale. The currents create a global conveyor belt that acts as a global circulation system. It transfers warm water and precipitation from the equator towards the cold-watered poles and vice versa. It also plays a vital role in distributing nutrients across the ocean.

As seasons change, so do wind and weather trends, sea surface temperatures, and currents. Currents are stronger in the winter than they are in the summer because there are stronger winds and colder sea temperatures. Furthermore, spring is a considerable transition period. During this time, temperatures begin to warm, the density and salinity of the ocean changes, and wind patterns shift. These factors significantly influence currents, causing them to become unstable.

Without currents, the land wouldn’t be habitable because temperatures would be too extreme; the equator too hot and the poles too cold. Additionally, the precipitation distributed by currents and wind is necessary to all living things and is needed to sustain life. Foreseeable current, weather, and climate trends are key components in maintaining a healthy economy by supporting crops, livestock, tourism, etc., and can also save lives from dangerous storms and create more resilient communities.

Currents are measured and monitored by moored and drifting buoys that relay data via satellite. These buoys are efficient in collecting data, but they are quite costly and require much effort to deploy, retrieve, and maintain. Moored buoys often break from their mooring and can't be implemented in deep waters. Wave Gliders, however, can measure and monitor surface currents on a local and global scale in any seas without the considerable exertion and cost. Therefore, they could be utilized as an alternative to some of the moored buoys or drifters while collecting other vital data such as salinity, sea surface temp, CO2 levels, and much more. 

Europa has not experienced much trouble from the changing spring currents thus far. Although, on April 5th, she hit a robust northern current with no sea state to give her power, which made her veer off course a little. Fortunately, we were able to turn on the thruster (a small solar powered, electric propeller on the sub) that quickly put her back on track. We hope the currents remain steady and in our favor, so she’ll return home as soon as possible.


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Oh Barnacles, those Crusty Foulers!

Barnacles are pesky little creatures. Have you ever heard of Barnacle Bill, the foulest sailor? Well, he’s named that for a reason. Sailors, shipowners, and mariners hate barnacles because they attach to the bottoms of boats and ships (biofouling). Large barnacle colonies weigh marine vessels down, which causes them to drag and burn more fuel. In our case, they stick to the bottom of our Wave Gliders and block the camera’s field of view.

Biofouling is a process where invertebrates, including barnacles, mussels, sponges, and corals stick to marine surfaces. For this to occur, a biofilm consisting of bacteria, algae, seaweed, or diatoms must first form on the substrate. The formation of biofilm is dependent on many environmental factors, however, once it develops, the biofoul rapidly increases.

To prevent biofouling, we experimented with an antifouling Coppercoat™ paint and a 90-10 copper-nickel alloy before deploying Europa. First, we painted the entire vehicle with the Coppercoat™. If we didn’t do this step, a thick layer of barnacles and algae would encrust Europa and significantly weigh her down. We then sheathed the camera within a copper-nickel casing with an acrylic lens in hopes that biofouling would not occur.

This image displays the bottom of Europa's float, painted with a Coopercoat paint. The Camera (facing down) is encased in a copper-nickel alloy housing with an additional copper ring around the acrylic lens to prevent biofouling.

This image displays the bottom of Europa's float, painted with a Coopercoat paint. The Camera (facing down) is encased in a copper-nickel alloy housing with an additional copper ring around the acrylic lens to prevent biofouling.

As a secondary safeguard, we incorporated an additional biofoul resistant copper ring around the lens. Unfortunately, that didn’t work as we’d hoped. Europa has had a barnacle progressively developing over the camera’s field of view for over a month, and there’s nothing we can do about it. Their lifespan is 8-20 years so that barnacle will keep growing until Europa’s mission is complete, at which time we will identify this barnacle. Below is an image sequence of the barnacle forming in the camera lens.

So, besides being annoying, what is a barnacle’s purpose and ecological role? Barnacles are in the Crustacea taxon, meaning they are related to shrimps, lobsters, and crabs. They are most abundant in areas where upwelling occurs, worldwide. As larvae, barnacles function as zooplankton; microscopic organisms that float around as food for other critters. As they morph into adulthood, they affix themselves to surfaces, such as rocks, ships or whales, and eat microscopic plankton through feather-like appendages called cirri. Primarily, they play a trophic role in balancing plankton populations.

Barnacles secrete a robust adhesive substance like super glue that has enormous medical and engineering potential.  Scientists have discovered barnacle’s glue binds the same way humans’ blood does when it clots. By researching it further, scholars can gain more information about how to prevent barnacles from fouling.


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