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It might not look like much, but it is an elegantly conceived, beautifully engineered piece of real scientific instrumentation capable of sending surface currents data via satellite to scientists the world over.

Affectionately known as SpongeBobs, the idea of mass deploying surface drifters has been the brainchild of a succession of scientists at the Institute of Ocean Science in Sidney BC for years. The current incarnation is portable, robust, relatively inexpensive and, best of all, easy enough to assemble in the field that even ham-handed sailors like me can get it done using not much more than a hammer. Everyone has to love a scientific instrument you assemble yourself with a hammer.

I have five onboard Seaburban. Actually, make that four as the first was assembled and set adrift today at 1619 local (UTC+1) near 41 02S 20 20E. As everything on a boat has to have a name, these I have decided to name after my father’s life-long friend, fellow merchant marine deck officer, land surveyor, and physical oceanographer, the late Alard Ages. Alard worked many years at the Institute and was well known as a bit of a character. Alard 1’s new home is now the Indian Ocean. Alards 2 through 4 will go over the side beneath the remaining capes with Alard 5 destined for the Great Southern Ocean. That or the Great Garbage Patch. Alard’s, if he were here, would not be able to resist a vote for the latter. The data this type of instrumentation sends to back to the scientific community is a vital part of atmospheric and oceanic modelling. One of the direct benefits for you and I is better and more accurate weather and current forecasts.

You can follow Alard 1’s track in real time at this link:

One of my primary goals for this trip is to inspire some of our brightest and best young minds to seek out careers in the Atmospheric and Oceanic sciences. I hope that seeing the tracks of these drifters as they meander over the oceans will spark some young scientist to figure out exactly what it all means.

To this end, schools across Canada and the US are following my journey and collecting local weather data to compare with my own in real time over a satellite link.

I have three other science projects aboard. They wait for my return to the Pacific and I am equally as excited for these as I am about Alards 1-5.

In general, I believe that anyone, anywhere can make a valuable contribution in just about any field they are interested in. Science is fueled by passionate minds and data. There can never be enough of either. Most times for you and I, its as simple as hitting something with a hammer and throwing it over the side.

Follow my tracks in real-time:


  • BT
    Posted at 10:41h, 02 July Reply

    Bert, you are amazing! Following you progress and posts with great admiration for you courage and wishing / willing you success. You are on the downhill run now. All the best from an Aussie follower BT ( 2 degrees of separation from your Uncle Joe).

  • Sandi Lyon
    Posted at 03:20h, 06 July Reply

    That looks about right. When it’s hot out in the ocean, its foggy and wet on the Wet Coast. That means you’re on the right track, heading the right direction. Finally. Woohoo.

  • Anita Kuntz
    Posted at 00:10h, 08 July Reply

    Following you journey and am truly amazed.

  • Suzan Persons
    Posted at 15:43h, 09 July Reply

    What an amazing journey!!

  • Karin Hill
    Posted at 15:27h, 13 July Reply

    Been following you for a couple of months now. What an amazing journey! Your blog is insightful and humorous. Almost home. Safe travels!

  • MountainJack
    Posted at 19:52h, 14 July Reply

    Has to be an amazing feeling to be so near home, Bert.

    Have spent months at sea “steaming”, not sailing, gaining my sea legs with the constant motion just became second nature. Getting back to a stable platform at dockside or over on the beach left me wobbly for a day or two. Cannot imagine how you’ll feel after a year of hardly ever being stable. There is that other thing having been on your own for that long; the familiarity of constant aloneness , the feeling of approach avoidance, being forced back into humanity. Might feel as though you could just extend a little bit more and savor the experience just a little longer…naw, probably not.

    Welcome back home, Bert. You’ve completed one heck of a feat.

  • Arthur Oliver
    Posted at 04:33h, 15 July Reply

    Getting oh so close. What’s the ETA?

  • estelle C whiddon
    Posted at 02:58h, 16 July Reply

    Bert, your homecoming Saturday will be a joyous occasion! I have followed the voyage daily and hope your arrival home brings much joy.

  • Peter Jungschaffer
    Posted at 07:19h, 18 July Reply

    This has been so great. Thank you!!!

  • BT
    Posted at 09:50h, 18 July Reply

    Hi Bert, you are just a few hours away from home. We are cheering for your most successful journey. We are especially amazed at the sailing conditions below Australia and New Zealand, as we can have some very big polar blasts hit us at this time of the year. Cannot imagine what it was like to sail through that type of weather. Can only take of hats off to you I amazement. Hope that you make it to Oz for a visit. What a wonderful achievement you have accomplished. /bt

  • Antonio Corbelletta
    Posted at 16:15h, 18 July Reply

    Congratulations! What an adventure! Well done. I have enjoyed tracking your voyage everyday just wish I would have know about it earlier, from the beginning.

  • Suzan
    Posted at 18:13h, 18 July Reply

    Yeahhhhhhhhh Bert!!! You have done it!!!
    Happy Homecoming – And stay safe!!!
    It isn’t the same world that you left!!
    I’m going to miss reading your travels and your adventures!! But thrilled that you’re home (almost) safe and sound!!
    Next trip around the world, hope that you’ll stop along the way and post your photos of the locals and the ports!!

  • Raegan Elford
    Posted at 19:23h, 18 July Reply

    Soldier who has logged more sea time than this Navy sailor.
    What an incredible accomplishment (the journey vice logging more sea time than I)

  • Marianne Scott
    Posted at 18:25h, 19 July Reply

    Congratulations on your accomplishment! I guess we will have to put up a plaque commemorating your voyage on the Victoria Harbour wall.

    Hope to see you this week.

    Marianne Scott

  • Tom Cory
    Posted at 07:40h, 23 July Reply

    Congradulations Bert from Annapolis MD. A Great Adventure.

  • Mark
    Posted at 12:24h, 29 July Reply

    I don’t think that anyone that attended Estevan Junior High could have imagined that this was in the future for one of it’s students. I checked in at different legs of the journey and was fascinated every time. Congrats!

  • Marcel Neamtu
    Posted at 07:14h, 06 December Reply

    What an adventure! But i do have a comment about the structure of the blog: it’s very hard for a late reader to read your earlier posts in a timely order or something. Very annoying to scroll all the time to your earlier posts..is there anything or I can be done? Am I missing something? If yes, pardon my ignorance.
    Cheers and take care!

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