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The Celtic Deep, like much of the water that encompasses 71% of the Earth’s surface, is shrouded in mystery. This hotspot for marine-life activity has fascinated and perplexed scientists for years, as it attracts rare and mobile marine species. Researchers have been trying to discern just what it is about the Celtic Deep that is such a lure for these species, which include many predatory marine animals like dolphins, the Fin Whale and the endangered Balearic Shearwater, to no avail, though they have a new weapon in their detective arsenal: the C-Enduro.

This catamaran-style boat is autonomous and powered solely by onboard wind and solar panels with a back-up diesel engine. Vehicles of this nature are normally employed to map seabeds, test water salinity and track endangered animals with little human operation needed. The C-Enduro is a project formed by a partnership between the National Oceanography Centre and World Wildlife Fund to travel and study the Celtic Deep, this elusive body of water that lies between Ireland and the United Kingdom. Equipped with a meteorological station to monitor ocean and weather patterns, GoPro cameras to photograph and map wildlife and sea beds and a marine mammal acoustic detector, the C-Enduro is on a voyage to explore the depths of the Celtic Deep and boldly go where no man has gone before.

Manufactured by ASV, a leader in unmanned marine systems production based in Portsmouth, the C-Enduro can sustain itself at sea for months with minimal control or monitoring by humans. It has an onboard collision avoidance system to circumvent any potential Titanic-esque shipwrecks with other sea-faring vehicles and a self-righting feature in case it capsizes. This type of robotic, marine technology can establish a consistent presence in deep water areas to observe these difficult to explore environments and the wildlife they attract, giving insight into how stable they are.

Like a parasite-eating pilot fish following around a shark, the C-Enduro will have a trusty sidekick along for the ride. Accompanying C-Enduro is an underwater glider that will explore the sea column in the Celtic Deep from surface to floor, creating 2D profiles of the environment so scientists can get a better understanding of its composition and makeup. The little glider that can is also equipped with some snazzy features, including instruments that can record water salinity and temperature, as well as doohickeys that can measure the distribution and quantity of plankton and fish prey.

Together, the data, measurements and analysis of C-Enduro and its trusty sidekick will be combined with tidal predictions and satellite imagery in hopes of mapping out a complete picture of the Celtic Deep and why it’s such an oasis for exotic and predatory marine life. May the sun and the wind sail the C-Enduro to wetter pastures and answers to the Celtic Deep enigma.

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