In March 2018, one Saildrone Unmanned Surface Vehicle (USV) launched from Hobart, Tasmania, to sail south towards Antarctica. This cruise is part of Saildrone’s extreme testing program in which Saildrone USVs are tested in real-world extreme conditions.
Saildrone USV SD 1003 soon encountered some of the exact conditions the Southern Ocean is famous for. In fact, on May 6, it sailed through a fast moving low pressure system which battered the USV with winds of over 55 knots. MetService New Zealand later reported the highest wave ever recorded in the Southern Ocean at the Campbell buoy (23.4 meters).
SD 1003 survived, and though it sustained some minor damage, it successfully ended its mission in New Zealand, yielding a trove of data that will lay the foundation for future missions in the Southern Ocean to monitor this fragile ecosystem.
Austral Winter 2018
A visualization of ocean currents in the Southern Ocean. SD1003 sailed south out of Hobart down to 55 deg South, crossing the circumpolar current before heading to New Zealand.
Carbon measurements from the onboard (PMEL) mapCO2 sensor suite recorded the anticipated high xCO2 levels in the circumpolar current.
A large low pressure system created extremely high winds over a wide area,
generating record breaking waves south of New Zealand.
A drone selfie in heavy weather in the Southern Ocean.