Unmanned miniature Lancer Sail boat to be deployed from the RV Celtic Explorer

Méabh Ní Ghionnáin says farewell to the miniature Lancer boat as it heads off into the Atlantic Ocean on the RV Celtic Explorer to be deployed. Photograph Andrew Downes XposureMéabh Ní Ghionnáin from Droim, Leitir Móir, Galway meet with the Marine Institute’s scientists and crew on the RV Celtic Explorer today  on her 9th birthday (18th April) to see the loading of the 1.5 metre Lancer unmanned sailboat onto the research vessel, where it will be deployed into the middle of the Atlantic Ocean during the Explorer's transatlantic voyage to St John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador.

Nine months ago in September 2016, Méabh found the Lancer boat washed ashore on her local beach after it had travelled across the Atlantic as part of a year-long research project that 18 year old Kaitlyn Dow from Connecticut, USA had undertaken.  Kaitlyn had launched the boat from the USA National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) research vessel Neil Armstrong off the coast of Cape Cod in May 2016.  The boat was fitted with a GPS tracker and she studied its movements across the North Atlantic.

The boat successfully crossed the Atlantic on its own following the winds and currents to Ireland, and was eventually washed ashore in the Conamara County Galway, where it was found by Méabh Ní Ghionnáin, a resident of Droim, Leitir Móir.  The Lancer Boat has since been repaired by Ciaran Oliver and James Rattigan from Port of Galway Sea Scouts and it is now going to be relaunched from the Marine Institute’s research vessel RV Celtic Explorer on its voyage across the North Atlantic. 

Dr Margret Rae, of the Marine Institute and Manager of the Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance Coordination & Support Action (AORA-CSA), explained that the crew will deploy the Lancer boat on the 22nd April from the RV Celtic Explorer during its nine day voyage.  “We hope the unmanned Lancer boat will catch the Irminger current and take it northwards towards Greenland, or the Canary current and take it southwards towards Africa.”   The Irminger Current is a north Atlantic ocean current setting westward off the southwest coast of Iceland and can be tracked using the GPS once it is launched at: http://www.nefsc.noaa.gov/drifter/drift_whs_2016_1.html

“It is also likely that we will get to see more of the mini boats like the Lancer landing in Ireland over the coming year.  The transatlantic funded programme AORA-CSA  formed a partnership in 2016 with Dick Baldwin’s Educational Passages mini-sailboats in the USA, and together are running an Atlantic Mini-boat Regatta: ‘Around the Atlantic – Our Shared Resource’.  The project aims to further promote ocean literacy recognising the importance of the ocean and how it has an impact on our daily lives,” said Dr Rae. 

AORA-CSA aims to promote the understanding of the value of the Atlantic Ocean by promoting transatlantic international marine research cooperation – all stemming from the historic Galway Statement on Atlantic Ocean Cooperation signed in Galway, Ireland in 2013. 

“Stories like Meabh and Kaitlan’s is a wonderful example of both marine science literacy and citizen engagement with the oceans – themes which are a priority for the Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance between Canada, the EU and USA.  Seeing new friendships formed across the Atlantic at an early age highlights the value of international partnerships that are essential for sharing marine science” said Dr Peter Heffernan, CEO of the Marine Institute.

With the Atlantic being the second largest ocean in the world, it is important to increase our awareness of the value, opportunities and societal benefits the ocean provides us," Dr Heffernan further said.The Atlantic Mini-boat Regatta is an exciting international demonstration of how results of ocean science and observation address pressing issues facing our citizens, the environment and the world and help to foster public understanding of the value of the Atlantic Ocean.

The RV Celtic Explorer is leaving from Galway on a transatlantic voyage to St John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador where it will be testing new equipment for multi-beam mapping of the seabed in the middle of the Atlantic as part of the transatlantic AORA-CSA project. 

On the research vessels voyage back to Galway, the Marine Institute and NUIGalway will be leading a team of international scientists completing a month transatlantic ocean climate survey – GOSHIP (Global Oceans Ship-Based Hydrographic Investigations Program), learning more about climate change and its impact on the ocean. The GO-SHIP involves the Marine Institute Ireland, with NUIGalway and research partners in UK, Germany, Canada and the US, and is another important example of the transatlantic collaboration promoted by the Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance between the EU, Canada and the USA.