» One year after setting sail, it’s ‘mission accomplished’ for the Lady Amber!
13.01.2012 - Natural Sciences Sector

One year after setting sail, it’s ‘mission accomplished’ for the Lady Amber!

© IOC, JCOMM-OPS The Lady Amber in full sail

The Lady Amber dropped anchor in Perth (Australia) on 4 January. This 20-metre schooner had set sail from Durban (South Africa) a year earlier and has since been criss-crossing the Indian Ocean, launching drifting robots as part of a project supported by UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC).

After months on the Indian Ocean the captain and four crew members of the Lady Amber, a schooner flying the South African flag, made landfall in Western Australia on 4 January, where they were greeted by the IOC Perth Office – after the final stage of a trip during which they deployed 57 drifting robots in the southern Indian Ocean – a zone which is rarely visited by research ships. These ‘Argo’ drifting robots gather data about the health of the oceans, especially on temperature and salinity. This data is then transmitted by satellite to reception stations on terra firma and used for numeric modelling for climate forecasting.

The adventure begins in June 2010, when Peter Flanagan, a retired captain, gets in touch with the IOC’s Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS) team. He offers to put his experience and his boat at the disposal of the international community. The JCOMM in situ Observing Platform Support Centre (JCOMMOPS) – a body set up by the IOC and the World Meteorological Organization – seized the opportunity to set up a partnership with him. The Centre then recruited the crew and put it and the boat at the disposal of the international community to deploy the drifting robots. Australia was the first country to get involved in the adventure. The first leg of the voyage started in December 2010.

'So far, Member States have, first and foremost, asked merchant and research ships to deploy the 2,000 drifting robots and buoys needed to maintain the network', explains Mathieu Belbeoch of the JCOMM in situ Observing Platform Support Centre. 'These days we are looking for more ecological and flexible solutions – using volunteers where possible, so we are developing partnerships with the sailing community, especially with NGOs.'
JCOMMOPS, based in Toulouse, France, coordinates the whole operation - 3,500 Argo drifting robots, 1,250 drifting buoys and 500 anchored buoys (including tsunametres), as well as 3,000 volunteer ships – covering every ocean of the planet.

GOOS was set up in 1992, in the wake of the Rio Conference. All countries participating in the IOC are now involved, with 30 countries donating Argo floats.

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