Here's a match-up you probably never thought you'd hear: scientists vs. pirates.
Scientists are using the U.S. and Australian navies to thwart off Somali pirates who have threatened their research missions. The navies have been asked to deploy robotic measuring devices to assist the scientists. The devices can observe conditions such as heat and salinity in the top 2,000 meters of the ocean.
Scientists looking to do research in the Indian Ocean have to deal with pirates. About a quarter of the ocean is off limits for this reason alone.
We have not been able to seed about one quarter of the Indian Ocean since the increase in the piracy, and that has implications for understanding a region of influence in Australian and south Asian weather and climate, CSIRO Wealth from Oceans Flagship scientist Dr. Ann Thresher said in a statement.
The researchers were looking to use parts of the Indian Ocean to help predict long-range forecasts. The devices measure salinity and temperature. The Indian Ocean in particular, Thresher said, can be used to detect climates in Australia and South Asia.
Before the pirates, the science vessels felt safe going out and deploy the robotic instruments on their own. Three thousand of the devices, which are about 6 feet long, have already been deployed in various parts of the world. However, they now have asked the navies to do newer ones out of fear for their safety.
With the region north of Mauritius being a no-go area for most vessels due to pirate activity, we have approached the US and Australian navies to assist us in deployments of around 20 profilers, including 10 provided by the United Kingdom Argo project, Thresher said. This level of international and military cooperation is tremendously important to us in building a sustainable operating ocean-borne system that is providing the data at the core of current weather and climate observations and prediction.
Somali pirates have been making news for some time now for hijacking various ships for money. In 2009, the most notable incident occurred when the Maersk Alabama, a Dutch Container ship, was captured by Somali pirates. The container ship had 21 American crew members. The pirates held Navy Captain Richard Phillips hostage (Phillips gave himself up so the others could go free). Snipers eventually killed the pirates and rescued the Captain.
Follow Gabriel Perna on Twitter at @GabrielSPerna