WALDPORT – Students at Waldport High School are excited about today’s successful launch of their unmanned sailboat, Phyxius, near the Equator by OSU’s R/V Oceanus, as part of a long-term national project to better understand ocean currents and transport patterns.
The project, organized by Oregon Sea Grant and the Oregon Coast STEM Hub, is part of NOAA’s Educational Passages program, which enlists science, technology, engineering and math classes to build the miniature vessels and set them loose in ocean and coastal waters – and follow them via a NOAA tracking site to see where they go. More than 40 of the drifters have been launched since the program began in 2008.
The unmanned mini-sailboats are self-steering and equipped with GPS tracking devices to study ocean and wind patterns and much more. The five-foot vessels sail directly downwind month after month. As these boats travel the oceans, students can track them via http://www.nefsc.noaa.gov/drifter/ and learn and improve their skills in map reading, geography, earth science, oceanography and more.
Waldport’s is just the third drifter to be launched in the Pacific. Most of the others have been launched into the Atlantic, Caribbean or Gulf of Mexico. Drifters have landed in Europe, the Caribbean, Cuba, Bahamas, Panama, Newfoundland, and Nova Scotia as well as many other places. Some have left Portugal and closely duplicated Columbus’s route to the new world, and another spent time on display in an Irish pub.