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On his first journey across the Pacific Ocean, Papa Mau was bitten by a shark, whipped by 100 mph winds, and tossed by 30 foot waves. Somehow he survived the whole 9,000 nautical mile trip from Northern California to Australia. Papa Mau now holds the world record for distance traveled by an autonomous vehicle on land or in the sea.
The surfboard-sized robot is one of Liquid Robotics’ Wave Gliders--the first marine robots that propel themselves forward with wave energy. In November 2011, four Wave Gliders took off on a slow journey (they have a top speed of one and a half knots) across the Pacific, armed with sensors that measure oil spills, salinity levels, phytoplankton activity, and more. The goal: to spark interest in marine science, foster new innovations, and prove out Liquid Robotics’ technology. All data from the journey is available for free to anyone who registers on the Liquid Robotics website.
Papa Mau is the first Wave Glider to finish his journey; the other three robots are still in transit. All four Wave Gliders were taken from San Francisco to the Monterey Bay, where they spent three weeks syncing their data with existing sensors in the area (from organizations like NOAA). From there, the robots’ paths diverged.