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FEATURE: : SatSharks — Knowing Where They Are...

by Danielle Edwards, NSSL

A U.K. armed forces expedition recently conducted a diving and shark tracking exercise off the coast of Costa Rica as part of the worldwide effort to increase shark conservation. A key element of the program was using SATCOM technology to update the team blog and podcasts in order to engage the public. NSSL, the international satellite communications service provider, contributed essential equipment and support for the expedition. The Broadband Global Area Network (BGAN) Explorer 500 satellite communications device, and an Iridium handset, enabled the entire team to benefit from high-speed broadband data and voice communications with the United Kingdom while at sea throughout the expedition.

Expedition Jurassic Shark 2 ran for 20 days in the remote Socorro and Guadalupe Islands, off the coast of Costa Rica. Jurassic Shark 2 consisted of a group of divers from the Armed Forces working with leading shark researchers to tag 20 sharks with radio transmitters to collect and record data for analysis.

The team consisted of 16 military personnel, including the Royal Air Force, Royal Marines, and the Army. The expedition focused on three species: Great Whites, Hammerheads, and Whale Sharks. The expedition included three scientists, each one a specialist in one of the three species of sharks being studied.

Major Andy Reed, Jurassic Shark 2 expedition leader, was swimming with sharks on a daily basis. “It is not inherently dangerous if you keep your wits about you. The sharks like to watch their prey for a while to decide if it will be an easy meal or not. They will smell and bump you before considering any attack. As long as you don’t panic and you gently push them away with a camera or spear-gun they won’t bother you.“ Andy notes that the Great White Sharks are an exception to this rule as their natural aggressiveness means you have to be careful whenever they are close by.

The tagged sharks are currently being tracked in order to learn more about their habits and movements. In addition to the tracking data, the divers and scientists were able to observe the shark populations firsthand to establish how closely the different shark populations were interrelated.

The diver’s spectacular underwater video footage of the team tagging sharks and the NSSL kit provided the team with stunning video content to upload to their blog on a daily basis. Additionally, it permitted them to keep in touch with loved ones for birthdays and anniversaries.

“The battery could last a full week before recharge and we used it for about 15 minutes at the end of each day for uploading about 1MB of blog/pictures and 1MB of video from our Mac,” said Major Reed. ”It was essential the BGAN unit worked with our Macs, so NSSL was the best solution for us.”

Danielle Edwards, Product Marketing Manager at NSSL, commented, “We have a strong customer relationship with the Armed services and it is a pleasure to support a group such as this with such exciting and ambitious goals. This once again proves how essential SATCOM equipment can be when communicating from remote and challenging locations.”