Boaty McBoatface returns home with unprecedented data


Researchers at the University of Southampton have captured unprecedented data about some of the coldest abyssal ocean waters on earth – known as Antarctic Bottom Water (AABW) – during first voyage of the yellow robotic submersible known as Boaty McBoatface, which arrived back in the UK last week.

The team, which also involved scientists from British Antarctic Survey and engineers from the National Oceanography Centre, captured data on temperature, speed of water flow and underwater turbulence rates of the Orkney Passage, a region of the Southern Ocean which is around 4,000m deep and roughly 500 miles from the Antarctic Peninsula.

In order to visualise the progress of Boaty and place the data in the context of the complicated terrain in the region, the team have created an animated fly-through of the Orkney Passage. The information collected will now be analysed to understand the complex process of ocean mixing and how it affects climate change.

The information was gathered as part of the DynOPO (Dynamics of the Orkney Passage Outflow) seven-week expedition, with the RRS James Clark Ross returning to Southampton last week. The DynOPO programme is funded by a grant from the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).

It was the first Antarctic voyage of Boaty McBoatface, one of the Autosub Long Range (ALR) class of unmanned submersibles, the latest type of autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) developed by the National Oceanography Centre.  The Autosub was named following last year’s campaign by the NERC to name the UK’s new polar research ship. While the ship will be named after famous naturalist and broadcaster Sir David Attenborough, the popular suggestion of the contest – Boaty McBoatface – lives on in the form of an unmanned submersible that will support the research ship to explore parts of the polar regions inaccessible to humans.

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