UPDATE (9/7, 1pm HST): Niu Hae Akala seems to be doing a great job of avoiding islands! After nearly slamming into Abemema Atoll a few days ago before taking a last-minute turn to the north to avoid landfall, Maiana Atoll loomed large on the horizon. But yet again, the island pushed the floating drifter to the north and around the small island. Interestingly, it then headed south as if it were trying to do a lap around.
This morning, however, has brought a change. Niu now appears to be returning to its typical northwesterly path. Perhaps the wind that picks up during the day is taking over. Or, to be completely non-scientific and start anthropomorphizing this sensor, perhaps Niu misses Roz and wants to go to Tarawa! Don’t we all?
As you may know, Roz deployed a floating ocean drifter device called “Niu Hae Akala” on the equator a few weeks ago (it was a stow-away on her boat since Honolulu). As one of the centerpieces of Project Niu, it is designed to teach students around the world about marine debris and how it is carried by ocean currents (since it floats just like plastic garbage). Since then, Niu Hae Akala (which has a satellite modem and GPS for remote monitoring) has headed due west for over 350 miles.
If you saw that Roz came within two miles of Abemema Atoll last night, then you’re already familiar with this area just southeast of Tarawa. Well, Niu Hae Akala and is now only 10 miles from landing on Abemema Atoll (as of 2:25pm HST on 9/4/09). Its next position update will be at 2:25AM HST on 9/5. Hopefully by then it will have “steered” north of land. Of course, this personification is inaccurate… it’s a buoy, it cannot steer!
Back here in Hawaii, those on TeamRoz that did not head to Tarawa this week are monitoring this situation closely. We just sent this message to Hunter and Nicole, hoping they’ll get it in time, or that Niu Hae Akala will avoid landfall…
To Hunter and Nicole,
You guys might need to plan another boating trip soon. Niu Hae Akala is headed **DIRECTLY** for that atoll that Roz nearly hit last night. It’s 10 miles away as of a few minutes ago, and is approaching at 1.3 miles per hour “steering” a perfectly straight course of 264 degrees. The drama begins as an expensive computer floats into an atoll…
Check out the Project Niu Tracker
(Niu Hae Akala is the pink path)