Science & Technology
Small eddies close to the water’s surface can be found throughout the world's oceans. They have a diameter ranging from one hundred metres to ten kilometres and heavily influence the sea’s energy budget as well as microalgae growth. While the eddies spin, spiral-like arms often form at their edges. Within the eddy, cold and presumably nutrient-rich water is pushed to the surface, promoting microalgae growth. The eddies, however, don’t exist for long. Fast motion mixes the warm and cold water together. The eddies finally collapse within a few hours or one day. The entire system of large and small ocean eddies works like a complex, constantly moving “clockwork”: the Clockwork Ocean.
Initiator and leader of the "Clockwork Ocean" expedition is Prof. Burkard Baschek, Director of the Institute of Coastal Research at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht (HZG). Measuring small ocean eddies on-site requires special measuring technology and speed. In 2009, an international team under Baschek’s leadership undertook such an endeavour for the first time in history. In recent years, this special scientific project has expanded into a modern media campaign in that crossmedia producers and developers of fulldome, 4K and virtual reality productions have been involved and accompany the expedition alongside the scientists.
The small, rarely studied eddies intensively mix the water. Their influence on the ocean’s circulation and food chain therefore appears to be of great importance. The scientists especially hope to answer some central questions: How crucial are the small eddies for energy transport in the oceans? What is the connection between the small eddies and phytoplankton production that forms the basis of the food chain in the ocean?
The initial preparations on location have already been underway since 2015. The first scientists made their way to the Baltic Sea in early June 2016 to inspect and prepare the vessels and measurement instruments in one final test. The zeppelin required for the expedition was transferred from its home port of Friedrichshafen on Lake Constance to Berlin on June 15th 2016. An official press conference took place there on June 16th, in which political, scientific and economic experts participated. We saw the zeppelin at Usedom in the Baltic Sea the same day. The scientific experiment was undertaken from June 18th to 27th 2016, southwest of Bornholm Island in an area measuring approximately 150 square kilometres.
The scientists detect the small eddies from a Zeppelin NT with the help of hypserspectral and infrared cameras and coordinate the activities on the water from up above. The HZG research vessels, the Ludwig Prandtl and the speedboat Eddy as well as the research ship Elisabeth Mann Borgese from the Leibnitz Institute for Baltic Sea Research Warnemünde (IOW) are also participating in the Clockwork Ocean expedition. From the ships to fully autonomous equipment, an entire array of measurement instruments are utilised in order to measure the most varying parameters, including temperature, salinity, current, oxygen concentration and chlorophyll.
The immense advantage of a zeppelin over all other aircraft will be skilfully employed during the expedition: the zeppelin’s ability to perfectly "park” in the air, focussing precisely on one location, assists the scientists not only in detecting the eddies but also in keeping them permanently in view. Easy coordination of all other ships involved is thus ensured. All researchers are constantly linked by radio and can therefore clearly communicate on route with one another.
In direct comparison to helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft, the Zeppelin NT is much more environmentally friendly, particularly in regards to noise pollution and fuel consumption. It burns only approximately fifty kilograms of fuel per hour in its three engines. Helicopters and airplanes with a comparable payload need several hundred kilograms of fuel per hour and thus pollute the environment a great deal more with their exhaust compared to the zeppelin. The noise emissions also fare considerably better with the king of the airships than with other aircraft. During a flyover at a height of approximately 350 metres above ground and at maximal rotational speed for all engines, a weak decibel level of only 64.9 is measured at ground level. At five hundred metres above ground, the Zeppelin NT is barely perceptible acoustically.
The short scientific film accompanying the project can be viewed at clockwork-ocean.com as well as on the HZG YouTube channel – suitable technical hardware is required to experience the film in 360 degrees. The users can then determine their own viewing angles. Keep in mind for tablets and smartphones that the operating system should be as up to date as possible. Mobile devices suitable for viewing are the iPhone 5 and the Samsung Galaxy S6 or later. The film is available in 720p, 1080p and 4k resolutions. The viewers can also immerse themselves in the "Clockwork Ocean" content using VR glasses accompanied by the appropriate settings. The screen is divided in half – one side for each eye. The picture can then be viewed in sharp focus using a mount for the smartphone.
Those who aren’t lucky enough to get a place on the Zeppelin during various activities nevertheless have the opportunity to participate in a number of ways. On clockwork-ocean.com you can find regularly updated articles, image galleries and videos on the active expedition. We update our social media networks Facebook and Twitter in real-time with short and informative stories as well as reports on the expedition’s successes. In addition, we post expedition news from other media sites. Further information is also available on our science blog, and in the press news section on hzg.de. Videos of the events filmed directly on location as well as various versions of the film "Clockwork Ocean" will also be available on our YouTube channel.
The Science Year 2016*17 concept is “Seas and Oceans”, as declared by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). Until the end of 2017, the aquatic environment will be brought into sharper focus in a multitude of ways for those interested. This will take the form of many events, exhibitions, theme parks, scientific activities and experiences. The "Clockwork Ocean" expedition this summer is also part of these endeavours.
Further media questions regarding the expedition (activity, organisation, content, special features) will be addressed by the Public Relations team. The director of press relations is Dr. Torsten Fischer, Phone: +49 (0)4152/87-1677, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Tanja Baschek is responsible for the "Clockwork Ocean" project. Telephone: +49 (0) 4152/87 1785, Email: email@example.com.