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Science equipment lost at sea for two years surfaces in Bermuda

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Scientists remove an information-gathering pod washed up at Tobacco Bay, St George’s (Photograph by Mike Muglia)
The shell used to hold scientific instruments on the shore at Tobacco Bay in St George’s (Photograph by Mike Muglia)

A battery of scientific instruments in a special pod which was lost at sea for two years has been turned over to their owners after it washed up in Bermuda.

The 800lb pod, designed to measure ocean conditions, drifted hundreds of miles from just off the coast of North Carolina before it made landfall.

Scientists at the University of North Carolina got an unexpected phone call from staff at the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences after staff members out for a stroll near Tobacco Bay in St George’s spotted the pod on the shoreline.

William Curry, the president and CEO of BIOS, said staff phoned up the United States manufacturer of the pod’s frame, who got in touch with Harvey Seim at the university.

He added: “I understand the instrument was part of an array deployed beneath the Gulf Stream near North Carolina.

“It failed to release or released early and was not recovered at the end of the experiment in 2019.

“A small team from Bios’s marine operations group dismantled the critical instruments, but did not move the basic frame because of its weight and location.”

Dr Seim travelled to the island with Mike Muglia, a researcher with the Coastal Studies Institute in North Carolina to collect the equipment.

Dr Muglia said the pod was placed 250 metres down off Cape Hatteras – at about 650 miles from Bermuda, the closest land to Bermuda.

The battery of devices from a variety of scientific institutes were designed measured salt content, temperature and depth where the Gulf Stream current runs past the US East Coast.

The pod was supposed to return to the surface in 2019 but went missing – until it washed up in Bermuda, minus a hydrophone, used to listen for marine mammals.

Dr Muglia said the devices had suffered damage over the years and it was not yet clear how much information could be recovered.

He said the team had been “overwhelmed” by the help from BIOS staff – including Warren Smith, Kenny Trott, Greg Wade and Rick Verlini.

Dr Muglia and Dr Siem, on their first visit to the island, will fly home today.

The massive frame that held the devices will be safely disposed of.

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Published May 13, 2021 at 8:11 am (Updated May 13, 2021 at 8:11 am)

Science equipment lost at sea for two years surfaces in Bermuda

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