Missing ocean instrument package found after accidental five-year odyssey

After five years and 8,700 mi (14,000 km), a lost oceanographic instrument package has turned up on a beach in Tasmania. The deep-ocean monitoring equipment belonging to Britain's National Oceanography Centre (NOC) was lost on Christmas Day 2013 in the northern Drake Passage after a failed recovery effort, but was found by a Tasmanian resident after an epic drift clear across the South Pacific.

The ocean is a very big and often very dangerous place, and to properly study it scientists have for centuries relied on floating experiments to gather information. Sometimes these are as simple as bottles containing a note and a request for whoever found it to let the scientists know where it was picked up, and others are elaborate buoys stuffed with sophisticated instruments and a satellite telemetry uplink.

Unfortunately, the sea being what it is, not all of these survive and many are lost in the search for knowledge. Such was the case with the NOC deep-sea lander that was dropped in 2009 into the narrows between the tip of South America and Antarctica to a depth of 1,100 m (3,600 ft). Its purpose was to measure sea-bottom pressures to gain a better understanding of the globe-encircling Antarctic Circumpolar Current, but when it came time for the British Antarctic Survey's Royal Research Ship (RRS) James Clark Ross to recover it, it did not return to the surface.

The conclusion at the time was that the release mechanism had become tangled and that it was trapped on the bottom, but it t....

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