Everyone’s favorite submarine is back, in Pog form! Wait no, that’s not right. It’s just back.
Yes, Boaty McBoatface has returned from its first journey, sent deep into the Southern Ocean near Antarctica, where it experienced some of the coldest abyssal ocean waters on Earth.
It was sent on an expedition funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), who ran the now famous vote that propelled Boaty to stardom. During three excursions, researchers used Boaty to get data on temperature, speed of water, and underwater turbulence rates of the Orkney Passage. This is about 4,000 meters (13,000 feet) deep, and 800 kilometers (500 miles) from the Antarctic Peninsula.
“We have been able to collect massive amounts of data that we have never been able to capture before due to the way Boaty (Autosub Long Range) is able to move underwater,” Professor Alberto Naveira Garabato from the University of Southampton, who led this expedition, said in a statement.
“Up until now we have only been able to take measurements from a fixed point, but now, we are able to obtain a much more detailed picture of what is happening in this very important underwater landscape. The challenge for us now is to analyse it all.”
Boaty was carried by the ship RRS James Clark Ross, spending seven weeks out and about, before returning to Southampton last week. The expedition, called DynOPO (Dynamics of the Orkney Passage Outflow), is aiming to investigate the flow of Antarctic Bottom Water (AABW) into the Atlantic Ocean through the Orkney Passage.
This was Boaty’s first Antarctic voyage, traveling more than 180 kilometers (110 miles) by its own, and experiencing water colder than 0°C (32°F). It’s thought that changing winds over the Southern Ocean may be affecting seafloor currents that carry AABW, which is what Boaty was investigating. As the flow gets faster, it could affect global climate change.
It wasn’t all clean sailing, though. At the start of one of its missions, Boaty encountered a swarm of krill that was so dense it thought it was at the seabed – when it was actually just 80 meters (260 feet) deep. “However, the upside was that we did see lots of whales near the ship!” Povl Abrahamsen, Physical Oceanographer at British Antarctic Survey, said in the statement.
In the future, Boaty will be sent out on the RRS Sir David Attenborough, the ship that was named after the veteran broadcaster in the vote Boaty won. Although humorous, Boaty’s name was deemed a bit inappropriate for a vessel that would be traveling in treacherous waters, but it lives on in the form of three submarines – including this one.