Scripps Assistant Professor Drew Lucas (left) and marine tech Josh Manger deploy a Wirewalker from the stern of Scripps Oceanography research vessel Roger Revelle in the South China Sea in this photo by Sean Whelan of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.
A Wirewalker is a buoyant instrument platform that dangles on a wire beneath a float. The energy of passing waves is harnessed to push the platform down, and a ratchet mechanism keeps the platform from floating back up until it reaches the bottom of the wire and trips a release. On the return trip to the surface, oceanographic data is collected.
This Wirewalker was one of many instruments deployed as part of the Winter Monsoon Water Mass Modification study, an Office of Naval Research initiative composed of researchers from Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, the Applied Physics Laboratory at the University of Washington, and Oregon State University, among others. The goal is to better understand the highly-energetic small-scale mixing of water along the southern tip and to the east of Taiwan. Three prior Revelle cruises had collected data from the region during relatively mild springtimes, so the goal of this cruise has been to collect data during the intense winter.
In addition to collecting data using Revelle's sonars and routine tools such as CTD (Conductivity, Temperature, Depth) sensors, the project called for using Wirewalkers, towed profilers, moorings, and autonomous Slocom and Seaglider gliders.