The Lady Amber is a 20m schooner rigged sailing vessel under the command of Peter Flanagan – its “dedicated purpose is to fill the gap areas in the oceanographic Argo robotic array between Latitudes 50⁰S and 50⁰N with the exception of official demarcated piracy zones and within the constraints of the cyclone seasons.”
There are about 8500 floats that have been deployed in the oceans since 2000 of which an average of 3500 are continually active. The floats are untethered, (not anchored), and as they are free floating, they move with the currents (another reading is taken from this result’s as ANDRO, the worlds first accurate Atlas of Ocean Currents).
Due to this movement, gaps are formed in the array and the floats have to be continually replaced at a rate of 600 to 800 per year, a small percentage of them run ashore, get run over by ships or die and have to be replaced as their batteries run out, (about 5 to 8 years).
Data from Argo floats like these give us an in-depth understanding of the structure of the ocean beneath the surface. They have also increased our knowledge of the circulation and variability of these remote oceanic regions.
It’s our job aboard Lady Amber to close those gaps which are vital to maintaining the array and where the Ships of Opportunity don’t or can’t go deploying Argo floats as well as inspection of the Tsunami and RAMA moored buoys. We will also be involved with other research early next year like co2, XBT, Argonite and plankton sampling, pollution measurements and weather buoy deployments (SVP’s) and so on as many of the other disciplines have the same problem as Argo to get access to these less traveled waters.
This is where the Lady Amber comes in – the responsibility of providing float coverage of under studied areas (gap areas). The figure below outlines gap areas closed off the West African Coast by the Lady Amber’s latest 2013 deployment mission.
We believe in what we are doing…
To carry out this rather enormous task we have an extended cruising range aboard the Lady Amber. She is constructed to carry 4000 liters of water with a 150 liter p/hr water desalinator and 2000 liters of fuel including a huge fridge and freezer capacity with the result that our cruising range could be extended to 3 months at sea if necessary. (Or until the crew go stir crazy)
Of course, the rough sea and weather condition to go with it. We believe in what we are doing which is why we take the risks to achieve this. Our best efforts, we are told, go a long way to completing the Argo array.
…we are cost effective without the carbon footprint…
Our advantage is that, as we are under sail, i.e. wind powered, we are very cost effective, we don’t have nearly the carbon footprint of our larger brothers, also, our crew are fully trained and qualified in the initialization and deployments of the floats so there is no need to have an extra technician aboard.
In the countries we visit to resupply we seem to attract a lot of attention, not only by the public but we get invited by government officials and the scientific community for meeting and delegations. One of our tasks under the banner of the IOC (Intergovernmental Oceanic commission) is to meet with governments of all countries including the SIDS (Small Island Developing States).
We have a huge selling advantage here. On our journey so far we have had quite a few official invites. These visits that we have had in the past we usually reciprocate by entertaining them aboard our ship where the enthusiasm of the officers and crew for what we are doing becomes a very convincing cocktail.
In the past year alone, the crew of Lady Amber has spent some335 days at sea, our last run being an almost continuous 120 days without seeing land. During this time we have deployed 55 floats and closed many of the gap areas in the array that until now have been difficult if not impossible to cover.