A fleet of miniboats launched in the Atlantic Ocean

Saturday 10 September 2022

An exciting outreach project is being carried out during the 2022 North-South Atlantic Transect (NoSoAT) on board the RV POLARSTERN. In addition to receiving training in oceanographic techniques and ocean knowledge, the 13 young scientists onboard are involved in an international initiative to engage children in collaborative learning and ocean literacy. The expedition is endorsed as an activity of the UN Ocean decade.

Today the first of a series of four miniboats started its journey, driven by waves and wind.

What is a miniboat?
The uncrewed, 1.5m long sailboats, carrying satellite transmitters and sensors for air and water surface temperature, were assembled and decorated by school children from Ireland, Germany, Spain and South Africa with the support of local oceanographic institutions University of Galway (NUI Galway), the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI), Spanish Institute of Oceanography (CSIC IEO) and South African Environmental Observation Network (SAEON), respectively.

Young scientists onboard the German research vessel Polarstern launched the first of this small fleet in the Atlantic international waters about 22.5oN, 20.5oW. As soon as it was deployed, the miniboat began to measure ocean water and air temperature, and send this information with GPS Coordinates via satellite directly to a webpage which can be accessed by the students, as well as the general public.

In addition, live calls with the trainees onboard will allow the children to ask questions about the ocean, daily life on a cruise and the launching of their miniboats. The international collaborative nature of the project provides an extraordinary opportunity for children in different countries to interact with each other, their local oceanographic institution, and with the scientists onboard the RV POLARSTERN.

Once the miniboats reach a shore, the students tracking it can connect with local schools and communities to arrange for the vessel to be recovered, refurbished and relaunched!  This also provides an opportunity for students to learn about cultures around the world, empowering them to become citizen scientists and global ocean stewards.

The Partnership for Observation of the Global Ocean (POGO) and AWI, with the financial support of the Nippon Foundation, partnered with the non-profit Educational Passages to acquire a fleet of four miniboats.

Three of the miniboats – Spiorad na Gaillimhe (Spirit of Galway), Schnelle Welle (Fast Wave), and El Cisne Alto (The Tall Swan) will be deployed along the NoSoAT transect from RV Polarstern during September. The fourth (Yemaya) will be deployed by the South African Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment’s Research Vessel Algoa, in the South Atlantic towards the end of the month. All the children will be able to track their miniboats as they sail across the Atlantic Ocean, using this opportunity to learn about ocean currents, weather, technology, and more.

The location and data collected by the miniboats will be available in near real time at https://educationalpassages.org/events/pogo/.

More Info:

Scientific Coordinator of POGO lakrug@ualg.pt
Scientific Coordinator of Nippon-POGO Centre of Excellence eva-maria.brodte@awi.de
Educational Passages  miniboats@educationalpassages.org

Video copyright: Christian Rohleder

Several images of the miniboat being lowered overboard from Polarstern
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