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Scientists use an Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler onboard ship to monitor the speed and direction of subsurface currents that have carried the NBST. They estimate where the NBST will surface and steer the ship in that direction.
At the surface, the NBST turns on an internal Global Positioning System receiver and then sends its position to the ship via a series of satellite relays.
During daylight, it's difficult to see small submerged objects in the water, so recoveries are made at night, when the crew can spot an NBST's flashing light up to 2 nautical miles (3.7 kilometers) away in good conditions.
"It may sound simple, but it is quite a balancing act to get these Neutrally Buoyant Sediment Traps (or NBSTs) to sink to the exact depth we need," Buesseler said.
So with trepidation, Valdes sent seven NBSTs overboard in 2004 in the Pacific Ocean near Hawaii.
On their first scientific mission, "seven NBSTs went in the water and all seven came back with their precious cargo--a first in ocean sciences history," Buesseler said.
But we were confident that our basic idea had merit, and we persisted in building and deploying NBST prototypes until finally achieving real success during this past summer and fall.
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- NBSP code
- NBT test
- NBT-PABA test