The eight vessels competing in the Volvo Ocean Race, the crewed race around the world formerly known as the Whitbread, are currently in Auckland, New Zealand, having dashed across the Tasman Sea from Tasmania after competing in the Sydney-Hobart Race. Since departing Southampton, England, last fall, the vessels have been collecting scientific data — specifically, the color and temperature of the water. The data is transmitted via satellite to the Southampton Oceanography Center, where, with assistance from NASA, it is translated into colorized charts.
The material can be used by wildlife biologists to track food supplies for endangered or threatened species of marine animals. Since the vessels are transiting areas not often visited by merchant traffic (very remote sections of ocean), the availability of this data is unprecedented.
"Trying to get out there and do research on whales and dolphins is very expensive," said Andy Williams, a biologist at work on the project. "[This] is a unique opportunity that we couldn’t miss."
Let’s hope whale hunters don’t do the same.